CHARLOTTE – The NFL has suspended linebacker Thomas Davis two games for a blindside block that left wideout Davante Adams with a concussion during Sunday's win over the Packers.
Davis will appeal the decision. If he doesn't win that appeal, he would be forced to sit out the Panthers' final two regular season games, but he would be eligible to return for potential playoff games.
According to a statement from the league, NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan wrote a letter to Davis noting he violated a rule that prohibits unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture by "forcibly hitting the defenseless player's head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player's neck."
"During an interception return, you took a path toward your opponent who was pursuing the play and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside block to his head and neck area. You have been previously fined for violations of safety-related rules. Your actions yesterday warrant an escalation of discipline, not only because they were flagrant, but also because of your status as a repeat offender."
Davis has been fined multiple times in his career, including once earlier this season after he was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a hit on Tampa Bay wideout Adam Humphries, a call Davis vigorously disagreed with.
On Sunday, Davis made helmet-to-helmet contact with Adams, who was pursuing safety Colin Jones after a third-quarter interception of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Davis was clearly remorseful after the play, but that didn't affect the NFL's decision.
"If you see Thomas' reaction to realizing the hit he made, you know it wasn't intentional to hit (Adams) that way," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It was intentional he wanted to block him and I just take it from the way he reacted he did not intend to hit him high, or in the head. Unfortunately, that's the result."
Neither Adams nor Davis was available for comment after the game, but Monday, Adams sent a series of tweets that included:
"Game is already dangerous enough and we got Pro Bowl players out here head hunting and saying they 'didn't mean to harm me.'"
"I understand your frustration and I do apologize for the hit! In no way was I trying to hurt you. My first instinct was turn and make a block. In all sincerity I do apologize. I truly respect you as a player and I made a mistake!"
A couple of hours before the suspension was announced, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks threw his support behind Davis.
"I think you've really got to look at the person. That's the first thing I would say. We know Thomas is a class act," Wilks said. "The emphasis right there, when you get an interception, you're really trying to set the wall. We put a lot of emphasis on trying to score on defense. I don't think it was anything malicious that Thomas was trying to do. I think he just caught up in the mere fact of where he hit the guy."
While sometimes inconsistent in their judgments, the NFL is making an effort to take hits like the one Davis delivered out of the game. But is that possible?
"It's hard to say you can get those kind of hits out of the game because it's a part of it," Wilks said. "How do you control based off where a player is at that particular time? Do you lower your target; do you go low on him? I think it's hard. I think it's a judgment call by the officials as well as the players. You just need to be cautious when you're in that particular situation."