Panthers' Ron Rivera pleased with return of LB Thomas Davis

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was all smiles during his Monday morning press conference.

Rivera, after all, had plenty of reasons to be happy after Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal gave Carolina a last-second 33-31 win over the New York Giants on Sunday. He also is thrilled for the return of linebacker Thomas Davis, who saw his four-game suspension come to an end.

Rivera said at his Monday press conference that Davis will be in the starting lineup as the Panthers (3-1) face the Washington Redskins (2-1) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET).

“If he could’ve, he would’ve been here at 12:01. Unfortunately, he would’ve been here by himself,” said Rivera, who wore a custom black T-shirt with a silhouette of Davis that featured the words “I’m Back.”

“I was going to give the guys a ‘Victory Monday,’ but I didn’t want to have to make them wait ’til Wednesday.”

Rivera said a “pitch count” is in order for Davis, who started this season by sitting out the first four games as a result of an NFL suspension for violating the league’s policy on the use of performance-enhancing substances. The 35-year-old is not under contract for the 2019 season, but he has played 12 campaigns for Carolina.

“Thomas is always good for about three or four explosive plays in a game, minimum. They bring energy to us and I think that’s one of the beneficial things about having a guy like that,” Rivera said.

“He’s got a different energy level than most players. It’s above the norm — even in practice. It’s kind of a little running joke between he and I. It’s nice to have normal, calm practices. Thomas is back now, it’s going to be a little different, so I’ve got to adjust myself to him.”

Davis has been selected to play in the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons and was an All-Pro selection in 2015.

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