Few can imagine suffering three ACL injuries to the same knee. Even fewer can come back from them and play at an NFL level. But that’s what Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis did last year and has Terrell Thomas inspired to do the same in 2013.
Thomas, who recently signed a new contract with the Giants for the upcoming season, would receive weekly messages from Davis as he started 12 of 15 games in 2012 for Carolina, racking up 105 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles.
“I told him, ‘Don’t give up on your dream, believe in yourself and continue to fight,’” recalled Davis, who tore his ACL in 2009, 2010, and 2011, in a phone interview this week, according to The Star-Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas. “’I’m living proof, and I’m going to do whatever I can each and every week to show you that it is possible. If you continue to work hard and believe in what you can do, then you’ll be in the same position that I was in.’”
Meanwhile, Thomas is currently rehabbing at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedic and Sports Medicine near Pensacola, Fla., trying to return to the field for the first time since the final week of 2010.
“It’s one thing to have confidence when you’re not playing, and it’s a totally different thing to have confidence when you are out there and you’re in the fire,” Davis said. “But play after play after play, you become comfortable with your surroundings and everything that’s going on, and you stop worrying about that knee.”
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Terrell Thomas isn’t one to set the bar low. From day one since tearing his ACL last preseason – for the second time of his football career – the cornerback pledged to return to his old form in 2012.
Now he’s applying that same standard for the entire secondary, which he thinks has flown under the radar.
“I think we’re going to make a statement this year,” Thomas said before Friday’s practice. “I think we’re tired of being the underdog on the defense. Obviously our front four is the big thing, but we help them out a lot and vice versa. Antrel Rolle is a Pro Bowl player and obviously Corey Webster should have been a Pro Bowl-caliber guy. Kenny [Phillips] has been solid, and we have a bunch of young guys ready to play. And I think we’re excited for the challenge to prove a lot of people wrong.”
The 2011 championship run was full of highs and lows, and the secondary became a scapegoat during the four-game losing streak in the heart of the season. But injuries ravaged the entire defense, which eventually pieced it together down the stretch.
“It’s something that we dealt with every year, unfortunately,” Thomas said, referring to the effect of injuries. “Hopefully we can stay healthy this year. We have a lot of depth and great players. I think we see the potential on paper. It starts today to build on that.”
Before the season-ending injury last year, Thomas’ numbers improved each of his first three seasons in the league. That set up 2011 to be a career year for the former second-round draft pick, but just because it turned into a lost season doesn’t mean he can’t find it once again.
“Expectations are same as I had last year,” Thomas said. “I set the goal high for myself. I kicked my butt this offseason to come back in the same form I was last year. I feel I’m almost there. I’m using training camp as a time to condition myself back into football shape. As far as the weight room aspect with my knee being strong and all that, I have full belief in my knee. Now I’ve got to get back to becoming a great football player.”
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