CHARLOTTE – It wasn't a victory Monday in the traditional sense, but it sure felt like one for Thomas Davis and his teammates.
Davis has likely never been happier to attend a Monday morning team meeting. The veteran linebacker was back in the building for the first time after serving a four-game suspension to start the 2018 season.
Here are some thoughts from teammates and coaches after Davis' long-awaited return:
The tight-knit linebackers were obviously thrilled when Davis walked into the building. Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson were among those sporting a custom-made "I'm Back" T-shirt featuring Davis' silhouette.
"We've been missing him," Kuechly said. "Everybody is excited to have him back. His energy and his personality is something that we all enjoy."
Added Thompson: "Our leader is back, the head honcho. He's got that love and passion for the game. That's why we love having him back."
Monday was a day for meetings to review the 33-31 victory over the Giants. But Wednesday will be Davis' first opportunity to get back in pads and play football.
"He's always running fast, but there's going to be a different energy out there Wednesday," Kuechly said. "And Cam will have somebody that he can chat with."
THE END OF "BIG DOG"
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is of course ecstatic to have his longtime friend and locker neighbor back with the team, but there are some cons.
"I can't sit in his locker after practice like I was," Munnerlyn joked.
And his new nickname, which was created during Davis' absence, may be a thing of the past. Allow Munnerlyn to explain.
"I told everybody to call me Big Dog. Even the coaches bought into it. Instead of nickel, we've been saying Big Dog in the game," Munnerlyn said. "Now TD comes back and he says, 'Hey, hey, that Big Dog stuff is done.' That's kind of frustrating and it hurts, because I know everyone is going to stop calling me Big Dog!"
In all seriousness, he'll trade a nickname for a Pro Bowl linebacker.
"To get TD back at 3-1, one of our leaders and best defenders, it's definitely key," Munnerlyn said. "He's like a brother. Not having him for five weeks was tough."
COACHES WEIGH IN
Want to know how much Davis means to this defense? Read what defensive coordinator Eric Washington and linebackers coach Steve Russ had to say about No. 58's value.
"Leadership, energy and he's just an explosive player even at this stage of his career," Washington said. "Thomas is a great run defender and he can cover a lot of ground. He can rush the quarterback and help you as a blitzer.
"We missed Thomas everywhere. When he's removed from the building, you feel the impact, you feel the void a little bit."
And now that he's back, you can sense the boost it provides.
"His presence is palpable," Russ said. "Having him back just warms everybody's heart. How he carries himself, how he conducts his business, the standard that he expects from himself and everyone else – you can't have enough of that. It's pretty special to get him back in here. It's been a wonderful day."