Carolina Panthers

Panthers’ Thomas Davis isn’t ruling out playing past 2017

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis’ new contract runs through 2017, but he says that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to retire.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis’ new contract runs through 2017, but he says that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to retire.

When the Panthers announced linebacker Thomas Davis’ contract extension Monday, they indicated the deal, which runs through 2017, will allow Davis to retire as a Panther.

It’s true he plans to play for only the Panthers his entire career. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to hang it up after the 2017 season.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen then,” Davis, 32, said with a smile Tuesday, the first day of veteran minicamp. “But if I do decide that I can no longer play the game, I’ll definitely be excited with the work I was able to put in and the fact I was able to play with one organization.”

Davis has said since last year that even before he returned from his third ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery in 2012, he did not plan to play for another team. He would have retired rather than suit up for someone other than the Panthers.

Now he will earn $18 million in the next three years following the extension, which tacked on two years to his existing deal.

His coach can’t envision him retiring in 2017, either.

“Knowing him it’s going to be, ‘I’ll see how I am’ every year,” Ron Rivera said. “The thing about him is he seems revitalized in terms of he missed three seasons, and he knows because of that he takes great care of himself and works very hard at staying healthy. I really can’t (see it).

“I know we’ve talked about how he’ll retire a Panther, well maybe in three, four or five years knowing him. As long as he stays healthy and continues to work at it, he’s got a great chance to extend his career.”

Davis, the reigning NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award winner, is a likely candidate to join the Panthers’ Ring of Honor once his playing days are done. His community work and his play on the field – he’s second all time in tackles with 831 and has more career starts than any linebacker in franchise history – will see to that.

But if that happens after the 2017 season is to be determined. If he’s feeling as if he can play another year, Davis said he’ll have that talk with the team. And if the Panthers don’t believe he has anything left in the tank, he’ll retire.

Davis said he won’t choose the path of Brett Favre, who had a messy breakup with the Packers after 16 seasons and then played with the Vikings and Jets while flirting with other teams after unofficial retirement.

“No Brett Favre,” Davis said. “I’m not bouncing around the world. I’m excited with being a part of this organization. I’m glad they made the commitment to me and I’m definitely not going to let them down.”

Hot, hot heat: With temperatures reaching the upper-90s and even hotter on the field turf, Panthers players and coaches are taking this week to prepare themselves for the Spartanburg heat at training camp.

“When you’re practicing on a 100-degree day you’re going to get tired a lot faster,” defensive end Wes Horton said. “Definitely a good test, but it’s nothing close to what we’re going to get come August.”

Coaches were regularly reminding players to hydrate throughout the day. No one left practice early because of heat-related causes, but several players looked gassed throughout the day.

Rookie receiver Devin Funchess, who last month had to leave a rookie camp practice early to receive IV fluids because of the heat, was clearly bothered by the temperature. After one deep route during 9-on-9 drills, he jogged back behind the line of scrimmage and took a knee for several minutes.

“My concern is we open up in Jacksonville (in Week 1), and we want to make sure there’s some heat and humidity,” Rivera said. “We have to get used to it and make sure our guys get used to hydrating so they’re ready to roll for an early game like that in the heat and humidity.”

Temperatures likely will stay in the mid- to upper-90s for the rest of the three-day camp.

Injury updates: Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Frank Alexander spent most of the day on the exercise bikes after both suffered strain groins recently.

Rivera was more optimistic about getting Johnson on the field at least one day this week, and he indicated it’d be a stretch to see Alexander back on the field.

Backup guard Tyronne Green, a fifth-year player from Auburn, suffered a right foot injury early in practice and the Panthers fear he might have torn his Achilles. Green put no weight on his foot as he was loaded onto the cart 30 minutes into Tuesday’s practice.

Backup cornerback Teddy Williams worked out a strained hamstring on the side with trainers, as did undrafted rookie cornerback Garry Peters.

Peters, who played at Clemson, hasn’t participated in more than three weeks, and there’s concern he might not have enough time under his belt to justify being on the roster come training camp.

“Apparently (the strain) is pretty bad,” Rivera said. “He missed OTAs and minicamp. We’ve got to get ready for training camp, and he’s missing some valuable opportunities.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

Related stories from Charlotte Observer