Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera isn’t too excited about the possibility of having to tell linebacker Thomas Davis he can’t play Sunday against Baltimore.
“It might be a conversation I’ll dread having,” Rivera said Friday.
Davis is questionable for the game against the Ravens with hip and hamstring injuries. He was limited in practice Friday for the second straight day after missing Wednesday’s practice, and Rivera said in his gut, he believes Davis will start at weakside linebacker for Carolina.
Running back Jonathan Stewart joins Davis as the two Panthers players questionable for the game against the Ravens. Rivera said Davis looked “pretty good” while Stewart, who suffered a severe knee sprain last week, didn’t look as good in his first practice back this week.
“It’s one of those things that you hope because they’re two of your better players,” Rivera said. “You always want to get them on the field. If not, you go forward with who you have.”
Chase Blackburn and A.J. Klein would flank middle linebacker Luke Kuechly if Davis is unable to play. Rivera said he has confidence in Blackburn and Klein, but Davis’ emotional presence and aggressiveness provide an edge for Carolina’s defense.
“It’s one of those things where you have to take all the information you have and really look at the tape (from practice) to see if you see something that shows he’s not as fluid as he needs to be,” Rivera said.
The Panthers plan to have running back Darrin Reaves active no matter Stewart’s participation. It’s possible the team will move running back Tauren Poole from the practice squad up to the 53-man roster this weekend after signing him back to the team this week.
“The way (Poole) handled himself in meetings talking with (running backs) coach (Jim) Skipper and (offensive coordinator Mike) Shula, listening to him when they’re inside the blitz meetings and answering the questions, you feel comfortable,” Rivera said. “He’s a really smart football player.”
Running back Fozzy Whittaker (quad) and tackle Garry Williams (hip) are doubtful for the game.
Steve Smith Week rolls on: Rivera has stayed in touch with Steve Smith in the months since Carolina cut the franchise’s all-time receiving leader in March. Rivera said Smith helped him lay a foundation for success after Rivera was hired in 2011.
“I’ll always be grateful for Steve because Steve’s one of the guys that helped me get going and where I am today,” Rivera said Friday. “So whenever I ran into him or I saw him, or he texted me or I texted him, it’s out of mutual respect for who he is.”
That said, Rivera has tired of the incessant media chatter this week about Smith, who signed with Baltimore a day after the Panthers released him.
“He’s a tremendous player and he’s got a great chance to be the first Carolina Panther in the Hall of Fame. Let’s understand that and move forward,” Rivera said. “Because it’s us against them, it’s our 11 against their 11 on the field.”
Smith undoubtedly will try to get under the skin of some or all of the Panthers’ 11. But Rivera, a former Chicago Bears linebacker, said he will not warn his players about getting too worked up Sunday in Baltimore.
“If I see it (during the game), I’ve got to bring them back down. But I’m not going to tell them all week, ‘You can’t play (with emotion),’” Rivera said. “No, I want these guys to play with some excitement and energy.”