October 25, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers have never questioned veteran outside linebacker Thomas Davis' toughness.

Now the national audience won't, either.

During the fourth quarter of last Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, the 32-year-old Davis dislocated his left ring finger while taking on a block, quickly popped it back into place and finished out the play by making a tackle on running back Marshawn Lynch for no gain.

The play went viral in the hours that followed the game.

Davis shrugged off the play as if it was no big deal.

''My pain tolerance is pretty high right now,'' said Davis, the only player known to have returned to playing in the NFL after tearing the ACL in the same knee three times.

He laughed off the idea of coming out of the game.

''What, am I going to go to the sideline and talk to the trainers about a finger?'' Davis said. ''I can do the same thing they're going to do. Pop it back in place, tape it up and keep moving.''

Davis and the unbeaten Panthers (6-0) host the Eagles on Sunday night.

Carolina's leading tackler this season is no stranger to finger injuries.

He said he has dislocated the finger ''five or six times'' this season.

That's nothing compared to two seasons ago when he suffered a compound fracture of his left pinkie finger during a game against the Miami Dolphins. While some players might have called it a day, Davis had the bone re-set, got stitched up and returned to the game.

''This little thing right here was not that serious. In Miami, the bone came through the skin,'' Davis said. ''In the heat of the battle, man, the game's on the line and they threw a screen play. It was a natural reaction.''

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has often talked about his respect for Davis' mental and physical toughness after bouncing back from the three knee injuries. Despite those surgeries, Davis is as fast and tough as ever, earning him another contract extension from the Panthers this offseason.

His versatility is also a huge plus.

When Luke Kuechly went down with a concussion, Davis was forced to play some at middle linebacker. With Shaq Thompson out this week with a knee injury, Davis could be playing the strong side linebacker spot, too.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly called Kuechly and Davis the best pair of linebackers his team will face all season.

''Obviously, Luke is one of the best linebackers, if not the best linebacker in the game,'' Kelly said. ''I know with Thomas Davis next to him that it's the best pair that we'll face and I said that last year in our game.

''They're both three-down linebackers, they can run sideline to sideline, they can match up with tight ends, they can match up with running backs, there's not a mismatch on the second level that you can find with them. ... It'll be a tough task for us in terms of there doesn't seem to be a weakness. I think (defensive coordinator) Sean (McDermott) does such a good job, you have to earn everything you get against them, you're not going to get anything cheap against this defense.''

The Panthers will get backup linebacker A.J. Klein back for the Eagles game after he sat out last week against the Seahawks with a concussion.

That should help ease Davis' workload.

''He knows everything,'' Kuechly said of Klein. ''He knows all three spots. It doesn't really matter where you put him, he's going to know it and he's going to play.''

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AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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