Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis was injured during the lost season of 2010, which unraveled under the weight of constant losing and the dysfunction of John Fox and his coaching staff working as lame ducks.
And though general manager Marty Hurney has been fired and coach Ron Rivera’s job is in jeopardy, Davis said comparisons between the current team and the 2010 squad are off the mark.
“We didn’t have nearly the amount of talent on that team as we do right now. Let’s be real about that. Everybody knows that,” Davis said Thursday. “We knew what was going on with the whole lockout coming up. So it’s not even close. To compare this team that we have right now to that team is definitely unfair.”
The Panthers sliced payroll during the uncapped year of 2010, cutting quarterback Jake Delhomme and several other veterans prior to the lockout. After an injury to quarterback Matt Moore, Jimmy Clausen took over an offense that was the league’s worst.
The Panthers finished 2-14 to claim the No. 1 draft pick in the 2011 draft.
Davis, a team captain, said this season will not play out like that.
“Man, that’s the craziest thing I ever heard. We’ve still got a lot of guys on this team that believe, and we’ve got a lot of talent,” Davis said. “All it takes is to just get rolling and go on a run. And it happens a lot of times in this league.”
Davis has played in five of six games since returning from his third ACL surgery. After playing fewer than 30 snaps in each of his first three games, he’s been on the field for 61 and 52 defensive plays against Seattle and Dallas with linebacker Jon Beason out.
With Beason now on the IR and Davis starting, Rivera plans to use backups Jason Phillips and Jordan Senn more to keep Davis fresh.
“It’s not like we’re in a position where we have to give him 65 snaps. Ideally, I don’t think we really want that. If we can keep him somewhere in that 35-40 range we’d be better off,” Rivera said.
After watching Davis get tired against the Cowboys, Rivera said he plans to limit Davis on special teams, as well.
JOHNSON LIMITED: The Panthers shut down defensive end Charles Johnson earlier than expected Thursday after the team’s highest-paid player injured his hip.
Rivera was unsure how the injury occurred, be it an elbow, a hip pointer or a strange twist, but Johnson was bothered enough for Rivera and team trainer Ryan Vermillion to limit Johnson the rest of practice.
“We slowed him down a little bit in practice and iced him down a little sooner than normal, but it didn’t look like anything serious,” Rivera said. “We just wanted to be cautionary at that point. He jogged off at the end. But we should be fine.”
Defensive ends Antwan Applewhite (thigh) and Thomas Keiser (elbow) did not practice for a second consecutive day. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hand), cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (leg) and tight end Ben Hartsock (calf) were at full participation.
JUDGING GETTIS: Wide receiver David Gettis continues to practice with the team, but the Panthers won’t know until Friday if he’ll play at Chicago.
Gettis, who missed the 2011 season following ACL surgery, has been sidelined this year with a hamstring injury. He was on the physically unable to perform list, and the Panthers have until next week to decide whether to add him to the active roster or sit him the rest of the season.
“(Friday) is the big judgment day,” Rivera said. “We’ll sit down and see if we’re ready to do that. And if not, we’ve got one more week before we have to do anything.”
FUMBLE-ITIS: Rookie returner Joe Adams hasn’t been active since losing two fumbles against the Giants on Sept. 20. And it doesn’t sound like the Panthers are in a hurry to get Adams in a game.
The Panthers haven’t had any long runbacks from kick returner Kealoha Pilares or Munnerlyn, who has been returning punts. But neither has fumbled.
“You’ve got to catch the ball first,” Rivera said. “Early on (Adams) was trying to make moves before he had the ball, and I think that created some of the problems.
“He’s got to learn to be patient, make the catch and then make your move. And he’ll learn that,” Rivera added. “He’s an explosive, dynamic young man. He’s a home run hitter, and you’ve got to get those kinds of guys out there.”
Adams said he’s worked on keeping his hands higher when fielding kicks, while trying to maintain a positive outlook. “It’s frustrating not being out there. But I can’t control it. It’s for the coaches to say.”