As the Carolina Panthers potentially prepare for a defensive makeover this offseason, 14-year veteran Thomas Davis will search for employment elsewhere.
Davis announced Wednesday night the team told him he will not return in 2019. He posted an emotional video to his Twitter account, in which he revealed the Panthers informed him two days ago he won’t be re-signed.
He’s been processing the impending change ever since.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
“I received information from the Carolina Panthers on Monday that they’re going to go in a different direction with the linebacker position,” he said. “It was extremely tough for me to deal with, that’s why you guys are just hearing from me just now because I wanted to be back, I wanted to be part of a group and right the wrongs that we had this season.
“Unfortunately, I’m not going to have that opportunity. With that being said, I just want to thank the Carolina Panthers organization, I want to thank my teammates. Man, you guys have been amazing for 14 very special years that I will always remember.”
Davis missed the Panthers’ first four games of the season because of an NFL-enforced suspension, but returned in Week 6 and finished with 79 tackles and six passes defended.
The Panthers’ first round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Davis spent the last few weeks of the 2018 season declaring his desire to return to the team next season. However, after a disappointing 7-9 season, it appears the Panthers will revamp their defense, starting with its linebackers.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he is the first player in NFL history to return from three ACL surgeries on the same knee, his right. Davis previously stated he couldn’t imagine playing for another team, but said in his video that he has no intention of retiring.
“Carolina’s gonna always be home for me and my family but I’m not retiring,” he said. “I feel like I have way too much football left in me to walk away from the game right now. So I want to keep playing, I’m gonna keep playing. Hopefully, someone’s going to give me that opportunity.
“Panther nation just know that in no way did I ever imagine putting on another uniform. Still to this day, I don’t want to do it. But I want to play football, so if that’s the way that I’m going to be able to continue my career, then that’s something that I have to do. I hope you guys understand it’s not a decision I wanted to make but it’s a decision I had to make.”
Davis is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection. He’s the first athlete in a major sport to return from three torn ACL injuries and won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2014.
His wife, Kelly, discussed the situation on WCCB News Edge on Wednesday, an hour after Thomas posted his video, saying their family would remain in Charlotte and travel for Thomas’ games should he sign with another team in 2019.
“This is life. This is a part of the business, this is part of the NFL,” Kelly Davis said. “You have a lot of people who want him gone, so they got their wish.
“I don’t feel like there was a lot discussed. Thomas respected their decision ... but Thomas is not ready to be done.”
Shaq Thompson is the presumed heir apparent to Davis at outside linebacker. As of Wednesday night, the Panthers are yet to release a statement regarding Davis.