Thomas Davis vows to return this year

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thomas Davis glanced down at the large knee brace in front of his locker on Thursday and shook his head.

The Carolina Panthers linebacker is convinced that if he had been wearing it in June, he wouldn't be sweating through a second grueling rehabilitation from a torn knee ligament in seven months. Davis thinks that bulky brace would have allowed him to be preparing for Sunday's game against Cincinnati instead of vowing to return sometime in November.

"If I had it on I don't think we'd be standing here talking about a second surgery, Davis said.

It was the lone moment Davis strayed from his upbeat tone. He had just finished what he called his first pain-free, full-speed running session. He glanced over at the schedule on the wall in the back of the locker room and pointed at Nov. 14 at Tampa Bay as the target date for his return from a second torn anterior cruciate ligament.

How confident is Davis he'll be back this year?

"If I was betting man I'd bet everything I had. How about that?" Davis said. "But seeing I'm not a betting man..."

The speedy outside linebacker then said he'd rate his chances of playing in 2010 at 75 percent.

"I've been running for a while now, but today was the first day it felt really good," Davis said. "Like no pain, just straight out running. I had my brace on. I'm not making that mistake again."

Davis blamed himself for not wearing the brace on his right knee as he made a speedy recovery from the first torn ACL suffered in a Nov. 8 loss at New Orleans. The first injury ended Davis' best season a pro, perhaps even worthy of a Pro Bowl invitation.

Davis was making a rapid recovery and was clocked at running the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. Shortly thereafter he was participating in a June workout without a brace when he went down a second time while backpedaling.

"It was my choice. It was based on how I felt," Davis said on not wearing a brace. "We felt strongly about how the recovery went the first time. I was able to go out and run full speed and do all these things that you normally wouldn't be able to do at five months, six months. It was just one of those things that happened."

The second recovery has gone better, Davis said, because the ACL was repaired with a piece of his patellar tendon instead of his hamstring, which got him back running quicker.

The Panthers, who placed Davis on the reserve physically unable to perform list, have a three-week window after Week 6 to decide whether to put Davis on the 53-man roster.

Davis vows that will happen, and he'll become a brace-wearing man.

"Not the rest of my career," Davis said, "but definitely the rest of this year."