"I would have bet a million bucks it wasn't the ACL," Beason said Thursday. "I thought it was scar tissue, and having the surgery, I know you can go through it."
Beason's voice then trailed off, and he shook his head.
"It's just crazy," he said.
It was indeed the anterior cruciate ligament -- again. Seven months after making a remarkably fast recovery from a torn ACL, Davis likely is lost for the season after suffering the same injury in almost the same way -- while backpedaling and without contact -- during Tuesday's optional workout.
It leaves Carolina without one of its speediest and best defensive players. And it could lead Beason, a Pro Bowl middle linebacker, to move to Davis' old spot in the Panthers' 4-3 scheme.
Carolina's workout Thursday included Beason taking some snaps there.
"I'm getting some reps at the Will position because we have the opportunity right now," Beason said. "You really just want to determine the best three guys right now. The only way to do that is to move guys around and see what that equation is."
Davis' injury is a major blow to a defense that's already trying to replace departed five-time Pro Bowl end Julius Peppers, both starting tackles and starting strongside linebacker Na'il Diggs. All were let go in Carolina's youth and penny-pinching movement.
"First of all, a guy like Thomas, my heart goes out to him," Panthers coach John Fox said. "Just going through that, personally, is hard, so I'm disappointed for him. I'm not sure you replace a guy quite of his abilities."
Davis' spot is important in defensive coordinator Ron Meeks' system because it requires a speedy, athletic player to roam free and collect a bunch of tackles.
One option for Carolina is to move Beason to outside linebacker, insert inexperienced Dan Connor in the middle and keep James Anderson at strongside linebacker, where he began practicing this spring to replace Diggs.
Beason entered the NFL playing the outside before quickly moving to the middle to replace the injured Dan Morgan. Beason could make the transition, but he also had 141 tackles last season and went to his second consecutive Pro Bowl playing middle linebacker.
"My number one goal is to win," Beason said. "If that's something the coaches want me to do (move positions), then I will do it to the best of my ability."
Another option for the Panthers is to keep Beason and Anderson in place and promote Jamar Williams to starting weakside linebacker. A five-year veteran, Williams was acquired in April from the Chicago Bears for safety Chris Harris.
"He's a leader, he's accountable and he's making a lot of plays," Beason said of Williams. "He looks great in shorts. Now we'll get a chance to see how he looks in pads."
The usually tightlipped Fox didn't say which way he was leaning to replace Davis, who will undergo surgery soon and begin another long rehab process.
"There's nobody to come save us," Beason said. "At this point, you have to go with what you have, and somebody has to step in and fill the void."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press