CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Pro Bowl outside linebacker Thomas Davis plans to play at least one more season, but it won’t be for the Carolina Panthers.

Davis, 35, announced Wednesday night in a video on social media that the Panthers informed him Monday they were going in “a different direction at the linebacker position” and would not be re-signing him.

“Carolina is going to always be home for me and my family, but I’m not retiring,” said Davis, selected by Carolina out of Georgia with the 14th pick of the 2005 draft. “I feel like I have way too much football left in me to walk away from the game right now, so I want to keep playing. I’m going to keep playing.

“Hopefully, someone is going to give me that opportunity.”

Davis is the team’s all-time leading tackler with 1,258, according to the Carolina coaches’ film. He officially is listed with 1,094 tackles.

Davis said after the season finale, a 33-14 victory over New Orleans that snapped a seven-game losing streak, that he wanted to return for a 15th season. He also said if the Panthers (7-9) didn’t re-sign him he would consider playing for another team.

“It was extremely tough for me to deal with,” Davis said of Carolina’s decision to move on. “That’s why you guys are just hearing from me right now because I wanted to be back, I wanted to be a part of a group that came and righted the wrongs we had this season.

“As one of the leaders of this team I took full responsibility for some of the things we allowed to happen, and the games that we lost consecutively. I wanted to come back and help fix that, but unfortunately I’m not going to have that opportunity.”

Marty Hurney said when he returned 18 months ago for his second stint as general manager that he needed to make sure the “analytical part of my brain takes over the emotional” part. Hurney was criticized after being fired during the 2012 season for signing aging veterans to deals that allowed them to play past their prime.

Attempts to reach Hurney and coach Ron Rivera were not immediately successful.

Davis in 2012 became the first player in NFL history to successfully return from ACL surgery three times to the same knee (right). From 2012 to 2016 he played some of the best football of his career, topping 100 tackles each time and making the Pro Bowl from 2015 to 2017.

In 2014, Davis was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for the work his Defending Dreams’ foundation has done in the Carolinas and his home state of Georgia.

Davis has been considered the “heart and soul” of the Carolina defense for much of the past decade. He returned two weeks after suffering a broken arm in the NFC Championship Game to play in Super Bowl 50 at the end of the 2015 season.

Davis announced in January 2018 on the NFL Network that the 2018 season likely would be his last. But after he was suspended the first four games for violating the league policy on performance enhancing drugs, Davis announced he planned to play at least one more year.

Rivera said in December that Davis “still has something left in the tank.” But with the emergence of 2015 first-round pick Shaq Thompson and the need to get more speed on the field the Panthers opted, as Davis said, to move in another direction.

“As you can see this is extremely tough for me,” said Davis, who paused several times in the video to gather his emotions. “I have loved and cherished every moment we’ve had in Carolina.”

Davis included a message to the fans, saying he hoped they understood his decision to continue playing for another team.

“It’s not a decision I wanted to make, but it’s a decision I had to make,” Davis said. “I’m looking forward to this season and getting back out and showing and proving that Thomas Davis still can do it. I’ve still got a lot left. It’s going to be exciting, man. As tough as it is to say that, I’m really looking forward to it.”


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