Linebacker Jon Beason walked through the Panthers' locker room earlier this week with his surgically repaired right leg wrapped, his season lost to injury for the second straight year.
On the injured reserve list, Beason said he didn't want to talk about football because he can't do anything to help the Panthers on the field right now.
But fellow linebacker Thomas Davis that made Beason stop.
"It's a tribute to his tenacity and how he went through the rehab process and coming to grips with the situation and saying, I'm going to do this thing," Beason said.
"His body has responded well and I think he's playing better and better every week."
While the national attention has focused more on the comeback of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning this season, Davis's unprecedented return from three ACL surgeries on the same leg is worthy of consideration for comeback player of the year honors. Considering Davis is doing something no NFL player has done, the Panthers linebacker is both a medical and competitive marvel.
The loss of Beason earlier this season has pushed Davis back into a starting role and he has played with the same unflinching aggressiveness that marked his play before three knee injuries in three years threatened to end his playing career.
"He's a winner," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "You love stories like this. At times I've got to remind myself what he's come back from.
"The great part about Thomas is the minute you try to cut him a little slack for that, he says, 'No coach, I should have made play X or play Z.' He's what you want in a professional athlete."
Starting in training camp, the Panthers have been careful with Davis, limiting his practice time and using him briefly in just one preseason game. Head coach Ron Rivera and his staff have also carefully monitored the number of plays Davis gets in each game, but his production and enthusiasm have made it difficult to keep him off the field.
"The hard part is you get in certain situations and you want to get a guy like that out on the field," Rivera said. "Were trying to keep Thomas between 35-45 plays a game. And the same thing with practice. We try to keep the wear and tear off him.
"The biggest thing we have to remember is hes barely 13 months removed from the last situation. Hopefully itll get better for him and hell continue to grow. Im really excited for him. I told Thomas I dont know if I could be more proud of a player thats come back from what he had and watched him play. Thats outstanding."
Play all 16?
Davis had a simple goal when this season began.
He wanted to play in all 16 regular-season games. Since the 2008 season ended, Davis had played in nine games because injuries. When he takes the field against Tampa Bay Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, Davis will be playing his ninth game this season.
Davis hasn't played every game he missed the New York Giants game due to a hamstring problem but he has started the past five games and has 45 tackles this season.
"(Missing) the Giants' game kind of took away from that goal but just being where I am I'm extremely excited," Davis said. "Given everything that has gone on in the past, for me to be in the starting lineup for whatever reason, just to be at this point and still standing strong and competing that's all I can ask."
Davis has done it with relentless rehabilitation work, grinding through the hard and painful process of strengthening his surgically repaired leg.
Like Sisyphus, the king in Greek mythology doomed to push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down eternally, Davis has spent too much of his career in the training room, chasing a recovery that keeps getting destroyed.
"A lot of people in their occupation they show up and, if you have a desk job, you show up and do your job," Beason said. "It's hard when you show up to that desk and there's a lock and key on it. Everybody in the building wants you to show up and work but you can't. That's how injuries are.
"To consistently have it happen to you is just bad luck. The thing to marvel about is how he just stays the course and keeps fighting because most people would have folded by now."
After the third injury last September, Vermillion said the first two days were difficult for Davis. Then he set the goal of becoming the first NFL player to come back from three reconstruction surgeries on the same knee.
To help him, Vermillion and his staff studied their rehabilitation program, tweaking it better fit Davis. Every day, Vermillion said, he or a member of his staff does extra work with Davis beyond what is standard.
"I did a self-examination," Vermillion said. "Are we missing something? Are we not doing enough of this? Are we doing too much of that?
"We've rehabilitated a lot of guys with the same program but not everybody fits into the same mold. We did a little more hip work, a little more core work. Thomas is not a Clydesdale. He's a thoroughbred. We have to treat him like the athlete he is."
Two weeks ago at Washington, Davis got hit in his thrice-injured knee and lay on the field for a moment.
Not again, he thought.
No, not again.
"It was one of those things when I was able to go back in the game, I was just thanking God," Davis said. "In the past when I've gone down, it hasn't turned out so well."