Still rehabilitating from knee surgery, three-time Pro Bowl tailback Stephen Davis will not be ready to practice at the outset of the Carolina Panthers training camp, and the club is expected to place him on the active/physically unable to perform list on Friday.
Team officials have conceded that Davis, who played in just two games in 2004 and who underwent the controversial microfracture surgery on his right knee, will not pass the club physical upon reporting to camp. By placing him on the active/PUP list, the Panthers then have the option of removing Davis at any time in camp, once he passes a physical.
Carolina reports to camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., Davis' hometown, on Friday and the team's first practice is Saturday morning.
"It's something that was anticipated," said general manager Marty Hurney, who said that Davis has not suffered any setbacks in rehabilitation, and is on pace for recovery. "It will give him some more time to rehab."
Davis, 31, will not be able to practice with the Panthers until he passes a physical. The team has offered no timetable for when he might be able to return and there remains some speculation that the knee surgery could eventually force Davis into retirement.
The microfracture procedure, in which holes are drilled into the kneecap to promote the blood flow to the area, has produced mixed results over the years for other players. It was used on Davis in an effort to curb the severe swelling that plagued the veteran tailback in the early part of the 2004 season.
Backup tailback DeShaun Foster, the heir apparent to the starting job and a talented back who provides a different dimension than Davis, also is coming off an injury-filled season in which he appeared in only four games because of a shoulder injury. The speedy Foster, a legitimate outside threat, has suffered through knee problems in the past. The Panthers addressed their uncertainty at the position in the draft, selecting former Louisville star Eric Shelton in the second round.
Shelton was still not signed on Thursday but there were indications a deal is close. With the situation so unsettled, the rookie figures to log plenty of snaps if he is in camp.
A nine-year veteran, Davis helped power the Panthers to a Super Bowl XXXVIII berth during the 2003 season, rushing for a career-best 1,444 yards. But the heavy workload he has carried during a career that also featured seven seasons with the Washington Redskins has clearly taken a physical toll on him.
Davis has carried 1,725 times for 7,326 yards and 53 touchdowns. He has four seasons in which he rushed for 1,000 yards but also averaged 324 carries in the four years in which he started 14 or more games.
Given the rules of the physically unable to perform list, Carolina could eventually face a tough decision with Davis. If he is not ready to play by the end of camp, the team might have to move him to the reserve-PUP list which, by definition, would sideline Davis for at least the first six weeks of the season.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.