Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has been suspended for two games without pay for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, the NFL announced Monday.
Davis is expected to appeal the decision. If the suspension is upheld, he’ll miss the final two regular-season game against Tampa Bay and Atlanta but be available for the playoffs if the Panthers (10-4) make it.
The league came down hard on Davis as a repeat offender, as NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan explained in a letter to Davis.
“During an interception return, you took a path toward your opponent who was pursuing the play and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside block to his head and neck area,” Runyan wrote. “You have been previously fined for violations of safety-related rules. Your actions (Sunday) warrant an escalation of discipline, not only because they were flagrant, but also because of your status as a repeat offender.”
It’s the third time Davis has been punished for a head-first hit in the past four seasons.
During the third quarter of the Panthers’ 31-24 victory Sunday, Davis was flagged for an illegal blindside block after leveling Adams during Colin Jones’ return of an Aaron Rodgers interception.
Davis head-first hit on Adams put Adams in the concussion protocol for the second time this season.
Adams sustained a concussion in a September game against Chicago on a vicious hit by Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan, who also received a two-game suspension.
Adams took to Twitter on Monday to vent about Davis.
“I’ll never understand it,” Adams tweeted. “Game is already dangerous enough and we got Pro Bowl players out here head hunting and saying they ‘didn’t mean to harm me.’”
Davis responded on Twitter by apologizing and saying he didn’t mean to injury Adams.
“I understand your frustration and I do apologize for the hit! In no way was I trying to hurt you,” Davis tweeted. “My first instinct was turn and make a block. In all sincerity I do apologize. I truly respect you as a player and I made a mistake!”
Rodgers, the two-time MVP, called for the league to take action against Davis because of his repeat offender status.
Davis was fined $48,620 last month for a hit on Bucs wideout Adam Humphries, which drew an unnecessary roughness foul.
He also was fined $16,537 for an illegal hit against then-Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in a 2014 game. Davis nailed Graham under his chin on a hit that the game officials missed.
Rodgers had a heated exchange with Davis late in the game, but declined to divulge what was said.
Panthers coaches hoped Davis could avoid a suspension, arguing there was no intent to injury.
“If you see Thomas’ reaction to realizing the hit that he made, you know that it wasn’t intentional to hit him that way. It was intentional he wanted to block him,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “I just take it from the way he reacted he did not intend to hit him high or in the head.”
Rivera pointed out that Davis did not taunt Adams after knocking him down. Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster was suspended for a game after he drilled Vontaze Burfict on a blindside block and then stood over him.
Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, speaking to reporters before Davis’ suspension was announced, said Davis “definitely” did not deserve to be penalized.
“I think you really have to look at the person. We know Thomas is a class act,” Wilks said. “The emphasis there was when you get an interception you really try to set the wall. We put a lot of emphasis on trying to score on defense. I don’t think it was anything malicious that Thomas was trying to do. I think he just got caught up in where he hit the guy.”