CHARLOTTE – Thomas Davis’ remarkable career with the Carolina Panthers has come to an end.
The longtime linebacker and captain revealed the news in an emotional video message posted to his Twitter account Wednesday night:
Davis, who spent his entire career with the Panthers after they made him a first-round choice in 2005, will become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins March 13.
A year ago, Davis announced his intention to make 2018 his last season, but after being suspended by the NFL for the first four games, he began expressing his interest in continuing his playing career in 2019. Davis will turn 36 in March, and as he said in the video above, he believes he has more football left in him.
"I just want to thank the Carolina Panthers," Davis said. "I want to thank my teammates - you guys have been amazing. Fourteen very special years that I will always remember, that I will always cherish. To Panther nation, I cannot thank you guys enough for the love and support."
Davis departs as the Panthers’ all-time tackles leader with 1,258 based on coaches' film review, but that only scratches the surface of his career accomplishments. In 2012, he became what is believed to be the first player to successfully return from three anterior cruciate ligament tears in the same knee. Following the 2014 season, he won the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Selected 14th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft out of the University of Georgia, Davis was a reserve safety and linebacker as a rookie who fully transitioned to linebacker in 2006 and quickly established himself as a productive starter.
Midway through the 2009 season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a game in New Orleans, then seven months later during offseason workouts he did the same thing again and missed the entire 2010 season as a result. He returned in 2011, only to suffer the same injury for a third time in the second game of the season.
Against all odds, he returned in 2012 and began developing into a better player than he was before the string of serious injuries. He only missed three games because of injuries over the past seven seasons, topping 100 tackles in each of his first five seasons back. Davis finished with 88 tackles in 2017 (15 games) and 84 tackles in 2018 (12 games) based on coaches' film review. His career tackle total based on press box stats (1,077) ranks second among active players behind Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea.
Ten of Davis' career 13 interceptions have come since he returned in 2012 – second most (behind teammate Luke Kuechly) among linebackers in the league over that time period. He didn’t record an interception in 2017 or ’18, but he ranks third among linebackers since 2012 with 18 total takeaways thanks to three fumble recoveries over the past two seasons.
All three of Davis’ appearances in the Pro Bowl also came after his injuries (2015, ’16 and ’17 seasons).
View photos of linebacker Thomas Davis throughout his career with the Carolina Panthers.