It’s rare for an NFL player to forge a close-knit relationship with the man who signs his paychecks. But Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has built a bond with team owner Jerry Richardson that he clearly cherishes.
The 12th-year linebacker has spent his entire accomplished career in Carolina. There have been plenty of ups and certainly some downs during his tenure. There’s just one thing missing: A ring for himself and Richardson. That’s Davis’ primary goal as the sun begins to set on his prolific career.
“At this point, it’s really not even about me anymore,” Davis told The Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler. “My goal and my whole reasoning for playing as hard as I can right now – knowing that really when you get to 12 years, time is starting to wind down – is we want to put on a Super Bowl ring on Mr. Richardson’s finger. That is a promise I made to him. And I’m trying to stay true to that promise.”
Davis came awfully close to fulfilling that promise last season as the Panthers started the season 15-1. After steam-rolling through the playoffs, Carolina’s unprecedented season came up just short of the ultimate prize, leaving Davis’ mission unaccomplished.
Davis has also been through plenty of personal adversity, particularly from 2009-2011 when he tore his ACL twice. That’s easy to forget when looking at Davis’ production the past four seasons since returning from the injury. Of course, toughness isn’t something Davis lacks. He played through a broken arm during Carolina’s Super Bowl defeat.
The good news is Carolina returns much of the same team that dominated the league a season ago. Davis and Luke Kuechly make up arguably the best linebacking tandem in the NFL and Cam Newton should put up plenty of points after his MVP season.
While Davis came one game short of putting a ring on his owner’s finger last season, all is not lost. In fact, the Panthers could be good enough to get back to the Super Bowl in a similarly dominant fashion this season.
That quest begins against the team that ruined Carolina’s season seven months ago, the Denver Broncos, Thursday night in Denver.