As the season wound down and the losses culminated, it was almost inevitable that some offseason changes were on the way for the Carolina Panthers. With 29 players set to hit free agency in March, the make up of the Panthers was sure to change as the team moved to mitigate the factors that resulted in a seven-game skid.
One free agent in question was 14-year linebacker Thomas Davis. Although Davis had previously stated that he planned to retire after the 2018 season, he had a change of heart along the way. As the season went on and the team had yet to extend Davis, the reality began to sink in. For the first time in his career, Davis was preparing to enter free agency.
In the final weeks of the season, Davis spoke candidly and emotionally when discussing his possible fate with the franchise he had spent 14 years with. The idea of free agency was not one that Davis wanted to face or discuss. When he finally spoke on it, an emotional Davis said, “My heart is here. This is where I want to be. I really can’t see myself playing for another team.” If Davis wants to continue to play football, it will have to be in a new team’s uniform.
On Wednesday evening, Davis took to Twitter where he informed that Panther-faithful that his career in the black and blue has come to an end. On Monday, the team communicated to Davis that they would be moving in a different direction with the linebacker core. Davis was adamant that he still has some football left in him and would like to continue playing. The 3-time Pro Bowler’s voice cracked a bit as he thanked the fans for their support.
“I received information from the Carolina Panthers on Monday that they’re going to go in a different direction with the linebacker position,” said Davis. “It was extremely tough for me to deal with, that’s why you guys are just hearing from me right now because I wanted to be back, I wanted to be part of a group and right the wrongs that we had this season. As one of the leaders of this team, I took full responsibility for the things that we allowed to happen and the games that we lost consecutively. I wanted to come back and I wanted to help fix that but unfortunately, I’m not going to have that opportunity.”
Davis was a force on the field and in the community. He finishes his Carolina career as the franchise’s all-time tackles leader and in 2012 he became the first player in NFL history to successfully return from three ACL tears in the same knee. Following the 2014 season, Davis was awarded the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his work in the community.