Carolina Panthers

Mohawk, trash-talk keep Panthers’ Thomas Davis young

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis responds to a reporter's question on Sunday, July 31, 2016 following practice at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis responds to a reporter's question on Sunday, July 31, 2016 following practice at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Panthers veteran linebacker Thomas Davis had his right arm wrapped in a big bag of ice Sunday following the hottest practice of training camp.

And when a reporter mentioned Cam Newton making fun of Davis’ haircut, Davis ran his left hand through his mohawk and smiled.

The youthful ’do and back-and-forth trash talking with Newton have made the Panthers’ longest tenured player feel young this summer.

“Listen, Cam can do what he likes to do with his hair or whatever he wants to do with his body,” Davis said, referring to Newton’s new blonde goatee.

“But as far as my mohawk, the standards have been set. My son is rocking a mohawk and I’m kind of rocking it with him,” Davis added. “I’ve gotten compliments. I really don’t care what Cam thinks about it. So I’m going to continue to rock my mohawk. I think it keeps me young. A lot of people don’t really know how old I am.”

Davis is 33 and entering his 12th NFL season. He’s coming off arguably the best year of his career – a 123-tackle, 5.5-sack, four-interception campaign that helped him earn his first Pro Bowl berth.

Davis says he keeps getting asked how much longer he’ll play. He said Sunday as long as he can keep up with the likes of fellow linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson – and keep jawing with Newton – he’s keep suiting up.

“I want to play as long as I can. I want to be a part of this as long as I can,” said Davis, who’s signed through the 2017 season. “This a special group. This is a special organization. And I just love the position that I’m in right now and I’m just having fun with it.”

The first week of camp featured a lot of chirping between Davis and Newton, who said his goal for camp was to keep Davis and Kuechly from intercepting him. Luckily, he didn’t make the same challenge to Thompson, who picked Newton off for the second day in a row Sunday.

“If that’s his goal he’s doing a great job of staying away from us and going to Shaq, and we see how that’s working out, right? Two days in a row,” Davis said, smiling. “It’s all about competing and having fun, and that’s what we’ve been able to do this whole camp.”

What started out as trash-talking last summer between Newton and cornerback Josh Norman boiled over into a fight when Norman intercepted Newton and ran in for a touchdown.

While saying no topic is off limits when teammates trade verbal barbs, Davis insisted players won’t take it too far.

“If you talk trash, you’ve got to back it up on both ends. So it’s been fun,” he said. “It’s never a chance that we’re going to go out and insult each other to where it hurts somebody’s feelings or where it’s actually bad for our football team.”

Davis became the first player to come back from three ACL surgeries. And he raised his toughness quotient another notch in February when he played in Super Bowl 50 two weeks after breaking his arm against Arizona in the NFC Championship Game.

Doctors inserted a metal and plate in Davis’ arm, trainers fitted him with a brace and he played the entire game, finishing with five tackles in Denver’s 24-10 victory.

Davis said icing the arm after his first live contact since the Super Bowl was preventative.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said. “Just making sure I don’t let nothing start to happen to it.”

Davis believes the two-and-a-half years he missed after the knee surgeries saved him from further wear-and-tear and prolonged his career. Now he’s trying to maintain a youthful persona – from his mohawk to the caged, four-wheeler he’s using to get around Wofford’s campus.

And he’s having a blast doing it.

“As of right now, I feel good. My body feels good. I’m going out and competing at the highest level,” Davis said. “And I’m having a whole lot of fun – if you haven’t heard that word – doing it.”

Rest assured Newton has heard him – loud and clear.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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