For the past several years Panthers coach Ron Rivera has stumped for veteran linebacker Thomas Davis to make it to his first Pro Bowl.
Now that Davis is in his position to go to Hawaii, he’d prefer to skip it.
Davis is one of 13 Panthers’ players ranked first or second at their positions in the latest Pro Bowl fan voting, which was announced this week.
Davis, with 175,429 votes, leads New England’s Jamie Collins (120,094) among outside linebackers in the fan balloting, which – along with the players’ and coaches’ votes – determines who gets selected.
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But with the Pro Bowl scheduled a week before the Super Bowl, Davis is hoping he and the Panthers (12-0) will be headed to Santa Clara, Calif., site of Super Bowl 50.
“That’ll be just fine with me,” Davis said. “I won’t have any issues with that.”
Davis, the only player in the NFL with four or more sacks and at least three interceptions, is tied with Luke Kuechly for the team lead with 81 tackles. Davis’ five sacks are a career high, and he’s on pace to finish with 100 tackles for the fourth consecutive season.
And while Davis has long talked about playing in the Pro Bowl, this is not the year for it.
“It’s not something that we focus on. The ultimate goal for everyone on this team is to make it to the Super Bowl and actually win that,” Davis said. “So if we have a bunch of guys on this team get selected and we can’t play, that’s a huge honor.”
Pro Bowl selections will be announced Dec. 22.
Tillman doubtful against Atlanta
Cornerback Charles Tillman is doubtful for Sunday’s game against Atlanta, likely making it his fourth straight absence for the Panthers.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Tillman’s knee has responded well to the treatment but not as well as they would like for him to play.
“He’s doing more and more; it’s just not where we need to have him,” Rivera said. “We’ve just got to be judicious. We’ve still got three or four weeks after this.”
With Tillman likely inactive, Bene Benwikere will again start at cornerback opposite Josh Norman. Cortland Finnegan, who last week saw 49 percent of the defensive snaps at nickel, will likely get the nod over Colin Jones.
“It was good. He made a couple mental (errors),” Rivera said of Finnegan’s play in the Saints game. “The good thing is he gets those things and he’s learned those things and he hasn’t repeated those mistakes. And he seems to be fitting in nicely as far as the locker room and meeting room and on the field.”
Also doubtful for the game is receiver Brenton Bersin (groin). The Panthers could activate Kevin Norwood this week, but they went with four receivers last week and could do the same again this week.
Defensive end Mario Addison (ankle) was a full participant at practice this week and should be active.
Rivera’s brush with fantasy
Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t do fantasy football, but he might help you with your team.
At least one time he did. In 2006 as the Bears defensive coordinator, Rivera picked up his office phone when a guy named Joey called him.
“He said, ‘How ya doin’, Coach? What’s going on?,’ ” Rivera recalled. “And I said, ‘Who is this?’ He said, ‘This is Joey. Hey listen, you’re my fantasy defense this week. Do you feel comfortable playing the Jets?’ I said, ‘Yeah we should be OK.’ ”
The Bears, 8-1 at the time and eventual Super Bowl participants, blanked the Jets 10-0 in New York and picked off quarterback Chad Pennington twice.
Joey called back on Monday and Rivera thought he recognized the number.
“He says, ‘Hey, Coach, this is Joey again. Thanks, man; I got a whole bunch of points off you guys,’ ” Rivera said. “That was it. That was my only brush with fantasy football.”