An old rivalry will be renewed this weekend even though one-half of it will be in a different uniform.
Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis will get to go up against old nemesis Jimmy Graham, the former Saints tight end who’s now with the Seahawks.
While there may be a professional respect between them, they clearly don’t like each other on the field.
“Nah, there won’t be any love lost,” Davis said Thursday. “I can guarantee you that.”
Davis and Graham used to go up against each other twice a season before the Saints traded their All-Pro tight end to the Seahawks in the offseason.
The feud reached a fever pitch last year in Carolina’s home game with the Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception near the goal line, but before the throw Davis hit Graham, who was within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Davis hit Graham in his upper chest – an aggressive play but one that was not flagged. Davis said he was later fined but appealed that one and another one and got some of his money back.
Graham played well in the game in Charlotte, catching all seven passes thrown his way for 83 yards and a touchdown. But in New Orleans he had just three catches on 11 targets for 25 yards as Davis and the Panthers defense held him in check.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “There have been times when Jimmy’s gotten the best of T.D. and T.D.’s gotten the best of him. And that’s the fun thing about being able to compete against good players. You really want to elevate your game.”
Graham is on pace to have his fewest receptions and receiving yards since his rookie season in 2010. But that also worries Rivera, who says it’s a matter of time before Graham turns the corner with quarterback Russell Wilson.
“It’s about once he’s comfortable in what he’s doing and once they’re comfortable with him,” Rivera said. “I think they (Wilson and Graham) are still learning each other.
“My concern is he starts to assimilate to what they do and fit in the system and all of a sudden you’re going to see him make plays again.”
Said Davis: “I don’t even want to get into inviting this and that because I got fined last year dealing with Jimmy Graham, so we’re going to keep it moving. We’re going to play the game.”