CHARLOTTE – There haven't been very many media members around Thomas Davis' locker lately.
Last year, the linebacker's comeback from three anterior cruciate ligament tears in his right knee in less than two years was one of the stories of the season.
Now, his weekly health status isn't a topic of much discussion. Davis, who played 15 games last season, is just another player expected to be in the starting lineup on Sunday. And he likes it that way.
"It's definitely a good feeling to have a full year under your belt after coming off the injuries that I've suffered over the years," Davis said. "Now it's all about football and not worrying about the whole rehab process and if I am going to be ready from week to week.
"It's just a good feeling to be able to line up and play."
In the season opener, Davis, who started at strongside linebacker, led the team with 14 tackles.
And head coach Ron Rivera said he has noticed a change in Davis' game from a year ago.
"He's kind of thrown caution to the wind," Rivera said. "He's not as tentative now as he was last year. That means he's got a lot of confidence in what he's doing, and that's the big thing. If you can play with that kind of confidence and cut it loose, you are going to make a lot of plays."
Staying healthy was one of Davis' primary goals last year. But after finishing second on the team with 105 tackles in 2012, he begins the new campaign aiming to build on his first full season since 2008.
"Really, the goal is just to improve on last year's numbers, not just from an individual standpoint, but from a defensive standpoint," Davis said. "We finished 10th last year as a defense. Our goal is to be No. 1. That's what we're working toward. And if my numbers get better, then our defense gets better."
INJURY UPDATE: Davis has thrown caution to the wind, but the team is exercising caution with linebacker Jon Beason, who is still working his knee injury back to full strength following offseason surgery.
Beason, who was limited in practice on Wednesday, was given the day off Thursday.
Like Davis, Rivera hopes to see Beason "cut it loose" in the near future.
"I'm hoping for Jon to get to the point where he's not as cautious," Rivera said. "You want to tell him, 'Just stick it in the ground and run. Trust it.'"
Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (thigh) and tight end Ben Hartsock (foot) were limited but Rivera said they took their scheduled reps.
Wide receiver Domenik Hixon (hamstring), strong safety Mike Mitchell (calf) and left guard Amini Silatolu (hamstring) practiced fully. All three were inactive in Week 1.
"Domenik Hixon looked really good today – real pleased with what we saw," Rivera said. "Mike Mitchell looked good, as did Amini Silatolu, so we're pretty excited about those guys."
SOUTHERN HOSTILITY: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton applauded the Bank of America Stadium crowd for the noise they made in support of the home team at critical junctures in Sunday's season opener.
"We had an unbelievable crowd that was backing us and was extremely loud," Newton said.
It was deafening at times, but not in a way that turned a blind eye to reasonable consideration of visiting fans. Seahawks fan John O'Gara said so much in a letter that he shared with the Charlotte Observer earlier in the week.
O'Gara reiterated his message in an email exchange with Panthers team president Danny Morrison, in part saying, "The fans and the ownership/management should be proud of the Panther program. I look forward to my next opportunity to come to Charlotte."
The Panthers were one of three NFL teams cited as top-performing clubs in a fan behavior survey released in March. In the survey, more than 90 percent of respondents said they had a positive perception of fan behavior in and around Bank of America Stadium.
Senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.