Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis waited 11 seasons to earn a spot in the Pro Bowl. Now that he has, he won't want to play in it.
Davis and 9 of his teammates were on Tuesday night selected for the NFL's annual all-star show. The game is scheduled for Jan. 31, but the Panthers would rather be preparing for the following week's Super Bowl in San Francisco. If they fall short of that target, a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl won't be the worst consolation prize.
Before this historical season, the most players the Panthers previously had selected to a Pro Bowl was eight in 1996. Carolina's 10 selections are by far the most in the NFL. The Cardinals, Patriots and Seahawks tied for second-most with seven players each.
The honor is especially sweet for Davis, whose role as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense landed him in the 'snub' category the past three seasons. The Panthers' 14-0 start made it nearly impossible for fans, coaches and players to ignore him again.
“It’s truly an honor to be selected to the Pro Bowl,” Davis said in a statement released by the team. “All the hard work and dedication I’ve put into the game has paid off. I’m extremely excited and I couldn’t be more thankful to the fans who took their time to vote me in, as well as my fellow players and coaches.
“To have 10 guys selected says a lot about our team. It says a lot about our fans and how highly they thought of us this season, and I think it says a lot about the way our season has gone. I’m excited and thankful to be part of the 10.”
Davis, the reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year, is three tackles away from posting his fourth straight 100-tackle season and he's already set career highs in sacks (5.5) and interceptions (3).
Center Ryan Kalil earned his 5th selection, tying a team record. Four other Panthers went to the Pro Bowl five times: WR Steve Smith, DE Julius Peppers, TE Wesley Walls and return specialist Michael Bates.
The Panthers had a league-best 12 players finish in the top-2 at their positions in fan voting, but that counted for just one-third of the overall tally. Coaches and players also cast votes that gave them each one-third of the final say. Of the 12 Panthers who finished top-2 in the fan vote, LT Michael Oher, S Kurt Coleman and special teams ace Joe Webb didn't make it in.
PANTHERS' PRO BOWL SELECTIONS
QB Cam Newton (3rd)
RB Jonathan Stewart (1st)
C Ryan Kalil (5th)
G Trai Turner (1st)
FB Mike Tolbert (2nd)
TE Greg Olsen (2nd)
ILB Luke Kuechly (3rd)
OLB Thomas Davis (1st)
DT Kawann Short (1st)
CB Josh Norman (1st)