Originally created 06/02/06

Davis eager to put his struggles behind him



CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Thomas Davis reported to minicamp with a new number, new position and a renewed focus to be the star the Carolina Panthers believed he was when they drafted him.

It's all part of the fresh start Davis said he needed after a disappointing rookie season.

"I wasn't pleased at all with the way last season went," Davis said after Thursday's practice. "For me as a player coming in and being a first-round pick, you set goals for yourself. Once you don't accomplish those goals, and you see other rookies going out and accomplishing great feats, it's very hard to take."

Davis' season went awry during the season- opening loss to New Orleans. A starting safety that day, Davis was torched by the Saints, who exploited his nerves and lack of experience.

He was benched midway through the game and never regained his starting position.

Instead, the Panthers found a hybrid role for Davis as a part-time safety, part-time linebacker. He excelled at it by the end of the season.

He had no other choice.

"Once you realize that's the way it's going to be for you, you can't spend a lot of time being upset with the situation," Davis said. "I put a lot of time into learning it, and I eventually got very comfortable with it and made it work for me."

But the Panthers weren't going to continue floating a former first-round pick all over the field. After losing starting linebackers Will Witherspoon (free agency) and Brandon Short (released) during the off-season, Carolina finally had an obvious place to put Davis.

Davis opened the Panthers' four-week minicamp as Short's replacement at outside linebacker, and he couldn't be more pleased with finding a permanent spot on the field.

In fairness to Davis, Carolina's coaching staff is as much to blame for his rookie struggles.

All that switching put Davis behind - and a little confused with all the different terminology.

"Probably not in his best interest, but we moved him around," coach John Fox said. "That didn't help his development. But a year later, looking back, it probably actually helped him for this year."

Davis will wear No. 58 this year, the same number former Carolina linebacker Mark Fields wore in 2002 and 2004. Fields missed the 2003 season with Hodgkin's disease, returned for '04, but hasn't played since because of ongoing treatment.

He's no longer under contract with the Panthers, but still considered by many to be a part of the team. So Davis made sure to get permission from Fields to wear the number.