CHARLOTTE -- In late September 2011, four men sat in a room at Bank of America Stadium. They had no idea it would turn into one of the most important meetings in Panthers' history.
It was just a few days after Thomas Davis tore his ACL for the third time in less than 23 months, and as the star-crossed linebacker sat down to chat with Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson, general manager Marty Hurney and head coach Ron Rivera, Davis figured he'd be told to call it a career. Instead, he was encouraged to give it one more comeback, and the rest, as they say, is history.
650 tackles and two Pro Bowls later, Davis on Tuesday signed a one-year contract extension that will let the 34-year-old remain with the only NFL team he's known through 2018. And shortly after the deal was done, Hurney yet again recalled the meeting six years ago that kept Davis' career alive.
"I think about it all the time, even when I was out of football, every time I saw him," Hurney said before the Panthers took off for a preseason trip to Tennessee. "I'm just so proud of the guy. It's about what's inside of him that allowed him to overcome what he did. But this is about now and moving forward.
"Thomas will be the first to tell you, he knows he can still play, and it's obvious. He still contributes at an extremely high level."
In Davis' first four seasons before his first knee injury, he reached 100 tackles once (2008). In five seasons since his third comeback, he's hit the century mark all five years while averaging 130 tackles per season to become the franchise's all-time leading tackler.
But wait, there's more.
Since 2012, Davis has racked up ten of his 13 career interceptions, and 14.5 of his 25.5 sacks while appearing in 84 of 86 games, a stretch that includes playing every defensive snap in Super Bowl 50 just two weeks after breaking his right forearm in the NFC Championship.
"The guy has special skills. He's defied the odds all throughout his career," Hurney said. "You look at him at practice out there, and he still has the same skillset, plus everything he gives you as far as leadership and his contagious effect on guys on the field, I just think it's a win-win for everybody."
On the surface, one guy it may not be great for is Shaq Thompson. The 2015 first-round pick was drafted to be Davis' eventual replacement but his path to playing time continues to be at least partially blocked by Davis. But when asked if Thompson's future impacted Davis', Hurney said:
"No. Your job as a personnel staff is to get as many good players on the field as possible, and the coaches jobs are to figure out the best way to use them."
And for at least the next two seasons, Carolina's coaches have one of those good problems – figuring out how to play so many talented linebackers.
"Players at the level of Thomas Davis are extremely hard to find," Hurney said, "so when you can keep them while they are playing at a high level it's a win."
View some of the top photos of the Panthers linebacker and team captain in action.