Coming off an Achilles' tendon injury that wiped out virtually his entire 2011 season, middle linebacker Jon Beason is back on the field and trying to re-establish himself as the heart of the Carolina Panthers defense.
Beason faces a worthy challenge, but fellow linebacker Thomas Davis has him beat. Davis is attempting to become the first player in NFL history to return from three ACL surgeries on the same knee.
"I'm seeing Beas out there and getting excited for him," Davis said Wednesday, according to the Charlotte Observer. "That's motivation for me."
Davis suffered his most recent knee injury in Week 2 last season against the Green Bay Packers. He hopes to be ready when training camp kicks off in July.
"I'll be fine. I'll be ready to go," Davis said. "I'm pretty much there right now. We're just taking precautions."
"We saw Jon Beason get an opportunity to be on the field, so I'm excited about that," Rivera said. "I wish Thomas had the opportunity to do that for us now. He won't, but the nice thing is we've watched him go through the walkthrough stuff. We've watched him go through the installation. He's moving around very well. He's working hard at it."
With Cam Newton leading the way, the Panthers appear to be set up at offense for years to come. If Davis, Beason and the rest of the defense can raise its game, Carolina could be an NFC sleeper. But for Davis, it's one careful step at a time.