Thomas Davis not ready to retire

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thomas Davis loves football so much he isn't about to let three knee injuries force him out of the game.

The often-injured Carolina Panthers linebacker refuses to put his shoulder pads on the shelf and plans to keep playing despite tearing the ACL in his right knee three times in the last two years.

Davis' latest knee injury came in Week 2 against Green Bay and he's been on injured reserve since. But the seven-year NFL veteran hasn't given up the dream of playing again.

Davis, 28, said he has some good years left and will do anything to play again -- even if that means volunteering to restructure his contract and take a pay cut.

As for life after football, Davis just isn't thinking about that right now.

"I have a love for this game," Davis said. "At this point I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm going to do everything in my power to get back and make another run at it. It will be up to the Panthers whether or not they want to give me another shot."

When the Panthers gave Davis a new contract in July they built in an injury clause designed to protect them against just such another setback.

Davis got a $7 million signing bonus up front, but is due another $8 million on the second day of the league year in 2012.

There's no chance the Panthers are going to give $8 million to a player who'll have missed 39 games over the past three seasons and is coming off three torn ACLs, no matter how much they like him as a person.

And Davis knows that.

"Of course I'm willing to restructure (my contract), as long as I get the opportunity to play," said Davis, a first-round pick in 2005 out of Georgia. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to be back. The money is not an issue for me. I have been blessed to make a pretty good living so far. At this point I just want to go out and play the game. I think I have a lot left and I can still play this game. I'm excited about it."

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney doesn't discuss contract situations, particularly in the middle of the season.

But he said if someone can make it back from three ACLs, it's Davis because of his strong work ethic.

"That's something that we will address and have conversations about down the road," Hurney said of Davis' contract status. "Thomas is a leader and is a special talent and does everything you ask."

If the Panthers decide not to give Davis the $8 million bonus and he doesn't agree to restructure his current deal he'd become a free agent and would be free to sign with any other team.

That's not what Davis wants.

His goal is to continue to play for the Panthers -- even at a reduced rate.

"My heart is here," Davis said. "There ain't nowhere else I'd rather play. It's the love I have for these guys in the locker room. These are my brothers and I want to go out and compete and fight with them. I feel like we're going to do great things around here and I want to be a part of that."