Strickly Panthers: Walking, talking wounded

CHARLOTTE – In the cases of linebacker Thomas Davis and right tackle Jeff Otah, their seasons came to an end before their hopes of seeing the field came to fruition.

In the cases of quarterback Matt Moore and linebacker Dan Connor, their seasons ended before they got to see much fruit from their labor.

But whether their seasons ended on the sideline or between the white lines, the injured players' inability to do anything to turn around the Carolina Panthers' fortunes going forward will leave a sour taste.

"It's tough. I don't know if there's a big ol' word that's nasty to describe it, but it's just hard," said Moore, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints that dropped the Panthers to 1-7. "It's hard for everybody and definitely unexpected for me."

Connor got hurt in the same game, suffering a season-ending hip injury. Both Moore and Connor were placed on injured reserve Monday.

Also on Monday, Davis and the team announced that he wouldn't play this season despite a valiant effort to return from a knee injury. A day later, Otah's bid to come back from a knee injury as well ended when the team placed him on injured reserve.

"You don't expect these things going into it, so it's hard," Moore said. "But I think the guys around here have the right attitude. We've just got to keep moving forward."

Before the Panthers' injured move forward and focus on healing, here are some of their thoughts about how they got here in the first place.


THOMAS DAVIS

"It was a decision made by me. The team left it up to me, and I respect them for that," Davis said. "It was a real tough decision because I know how hard I worked to get to this point and how much I really wanted to get back out there with the guys regardless of what our record is.

"But at the end of the day, I've got to do what's best for me."

Since Davis tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the second time in seven months, he vowed that he'd defy conventional wisdom and make it back on the field before the end of the season.

Davis said Wednesday that he could have made it back from the June injury but that he was at least a month away from returning to full speed, making a return unwise for both himself and the team.

"For me to be able to play at the level I'm capable of, I would have needed at least another four or five weeks," Davis said. "But I figured that at this point, give somebody else an opportunity to come in and prove themselves, and not take that chance away from another guy.

"I am a little disappointed because I didn't accomplish my goal, but I do realize that the whole situation is for the best. I feel like it's going to be really good for me down the line in my career."

And Davis, who will become a free agent after this season, wants to continue – and conclude -- his career with the Panthers.

"I feel real confident that I haven't played my last game as a Panther," he said. "I'm very excited about the possibilities of me finishing my career here, and I think that's something the team has in mind. Hopefully, it will all work itself out."


JEFF OTAH

"Rehab is working," Otah said. "This is just a time thing."

Otah hadn't just hoped that he would play this season – he assumed it.

Like Davis, Otah had knee surgery following an injury suffered late in the 2009 season. As training camp convened, it became obvious that things weren't quite right, so Otah underwent an arthroscopic procedure to clean things up but still thought he'd be back early in the regular season.

The problems persisted, however, and after spending the first eight games on the 53-man roster, Otah was placed on IR.

"I'm hoping that next season this is something that I don't have to worry about, that next season I can just play like I usually play," Otah    said. "All I can do is keep working, and then when I get on the field, I'll know where I'm at."


MATT MOORE

"I knew something had happened when I hit the ground," Moore said. "Unfortunately, it was a little worse than I thought."

Moore knew he had hurt his right shoulder when Sedrick Ellis drilled him last Sunday, but he thought it might be some form of a separation. Instead, Moore tore his labrum, an injury that likely won't allow him to so much as throw a football for at least four months after he undergoes surgery in the next week or so.

Moore, who had avoided serious injury to this point in his career, said he has sought advice from former Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme among others.

"I talked to Jake a couple of days ago just because of what he went through," Moore said. "He just said, 'Keep your head up. Keep going. Rehab, and you'll come out better off for it.' "

"I've just got to work through it and come out the other side better."

The same goes for all of Panthers' injured players.

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