CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thomas Davis knows all about pain and toughness.

So excuse the Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker if he snickers at the notion that 12 screws and a plate in his broken right forearm will keep him out of the biggest game of his career.

“I’m still looking forward to playing on Super Bowl Sunday,” he says with a wide, knowing grin.

Davis has overcome too much, and at 32 has come too far to even think about missing this one.

He is believed to be the first NFL player to battle back and play after tearing the same ACL three times. It’s even more remarkable considering he has returned to play at an All-Pro level after his third surgery in 2011.

Now, in a cruel piece of irony, the man who has waited 11 seasons to play in a Super Bowl has only two weeks to recover after breaking his arm in the NFC championship game.

“I was devastated for him at the time,” Carolina defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. “The guy has been through a lot and is the heart and soul of our team. He’s our emotional leader, our playmaker on the field.”

Given what Davis has been through, teammates aren’t surprised that he intends to face the Denver Broncos next Sunday in Santa Clara, California.

“Knowing Thomas, he is used to overcoming obstacles,” safety Tre Boston said. “Hey, give me 12 screws and a plate in my arm and I’m not playing for a month. But nothing can hold back that guy.”

Davis’ three knee injuries cut short his seasons in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Still, he is as fast as ever and seems to be getting better each season. He turned in perhaps his best season in 2015, with 105 tackles and career highs in sacks (5.5), forced fumbles (four) and interceptions (four).

And while he was going through hundreds upon hundreds of grueling leg raises, squats and stretches to rebuild his knee, Davis at times did contemplate retirement. But, mostly, those were fleeting thoughts. In the back of his mind was the Super Bowl.

“I never really look at it from a personal standpoint,” he said. “It’s great for this team to be in this position.”

Such an attitude epitomizes Davis. To a man, teammates talk about the time, pain and sweat it took for him to come back from a severe knee injury, not once, not twice, but three times. They say it’s difficult for the average fan to comprehend.

A first-round draft pick from Georgia, he has played all 11 seasons in Carolina, sticking with the Panthers through good times and bad. He’s become a local sports legend by overcoming the longest odds. It has the makings of a Hollywood movie.

Now, says teammate Luke Kuechly, all that’s missing is the ending.

“We’re doing everything we can to get him a (Super Bowl) ring,” Kuechly said. “I think that would be awesome. He deserves it.”

NFL NOTES

BROWNS: Quarterback Johnny Manziel is being investigated by police in Texas following a disturbance where he may have assaulted his ex-girlfriend.

Manziel was identified by Forth Worth police after they were called at about 2 a.m. Saturday to investigate a report of a possible assault at an apartment complex. The officers didn’t find the person who called, but they spoke to an unidentified 23-year-old woman who said she was “involved in a disturbance with her ex-boyfriend” earlier that night in Dallas.

Sgt. Steve Enright later identified the ex-boyfriend as Manziel. There were no arrests, and it’s not clear if Manziel has been questioned.

Police didn’t say if the woman was hurt. An ambulance was called, but she was not taken to a hospital.

Fort Worth police are working with Dallas police to determine if a crime occurred.


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