Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis won’t play the first four games this season while he’s suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
But Davis says he’s “very open” to playing beyond 2018, despite initially telling NFL.com he planned to retire after the season.
Davis, 35, whose contract expires after this season, hinted at the possibility of postponing his retirement in a video he released in April announcing his suspension.
He was even more adamant about his future Thursday when talking to reporters for the first time since learning he’d tested positive for an estrogen blocker.
Davis, the first player to come back from three ACL surgeries on the same knee, said he saw no signs this spring that he’s slowed down.
“It’s important for me to come out each and every day and show that I’m still capable of playing. I think when you look at the body of work over the (organized team activity) and minicamp process and period, I think I’ve proven without a doubt that I can still come out and play the game,” Davis said after the Panthers wrapped up their three-day minicamp.
“I’m still out here running around, moving just as fast as any of our young guys. That’s kind of how I judge myself. When we bring new guys in, kind of see how I stack up against them.”
Marty Hurney signed Davis to a one-year extension worth $6.75 million last summer shortly after returning as the Panthers’ interim general manager.
Davis finished last season with 76 tackles — fourth most on the team — and made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year as an injury replacement for Minnesota’s Anthony Barr.
In the April video, Davis said he’s been flagged for an estrogen blocker in a supplement that he’d taken for seven or eight years.
Medical experts say estrogen blockers can be used as a masking agent for steroids and other performance-enhancers because they can help mitigate their side effects and also restart the body’s natural production of testosterone.
Davis declined to specify the name of the product or the manufacturer Thursday, saying he’s friends with one of the owners.
“That’s not even important, to be honest with you. Because I’m really good friends with the owner of the company and one of the owners is a good buddy of mine,” he said. “So I really wouldn’t want to do that to the company. But it’s the same stuff that I’ve always taken.”
Davis said he’s stopped taking the supplement.
Frustrated, but responsible
He also expressed frustration with the NFL’s drug testing program, saying the lag between when a player provides a urine sample and when he’s notified he’s violated the policy makes it difficult to retest the sample.
“With the way the NFL drug testing policy is set up you really don’t find out as a player until a month or two after you’ve actually failed a test. It’s hard to go back and test that particular product that you’ve taken,” Davis said.
“I’m not saying it’s the league’s fault that I don’t know what product it was in. Ultimately, as I said in the video that I made, we’re responsible for what we put in our body as players. That’s something I have to know.”
Davis was voted the NFL’s Man of the Year in 2014 for his work with underprivileged children in Charlotte and his hometown in south Georgia. He said he’s impressed with new owner David Tepper’s history of charitable giving and community involvement.
'I'm open and honest'
During Thursday’s practice, Davis was shadowed by Kyleigh Dean, a 13-year-old from Conway, S.C., as part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Davis was asked how he addresses his suspension with the school-age children he works with.
“I tell the truth. I’m open and honest with kids about it. It definitely was something that was unintentional. It wasn’t something I was doing deliberately,” he said. “Sometimes in life, things happen that are totally out of your control. When you’re taking something that you’ve used for long, long periods of time you don’t expect it to be any different results.”
Davis can practice with the team during training camp and the preseason. Once the season starts, he won’t be able to be at the facility until after the Oct. 7 game against the New York Giants.
He says he won’t change his approach during that down time.
“Those four weeks I’m gonna be off, I’ll probably work harder than these guys are gonna be working out here. It’s just kind of who I’ve always been as a person,” he said. “I’ve never shied away from hard work, and I don’t look at this as being any different.”