Quotes to Note

"The loss of Steve Smith was a huge blow. I think the way Keary Colbert stepped up was a real positive. Even Moose's (Muhsin Muhammad) play, he became the go-to guy. I think his level of play was as good as I've seen. The running back situation. Brad Hoover rolled through there. Nick Goings, I can't say enough good things about. We proved that we have a little bit of depth there, especially when you lose so many guys at that position."

--WR Muhsin Muhammad said if his playing days are over in Carolina, he has no regrets.

"I definitely think that I've done all I can do. ... I definitely can say that I played this year as hard as I can possibly play, and I don't have any regrets," Muhammad said. "I won't look back and say I wish I would have done this different or that different. I think I did everything that I set out to do and left it all on the table, so at this point hopefully we can come to some sort of agreement."

--RB Stephen Davis believes his NFL career is far from over.

And he dares anyone to doubt him.

"Oh no doubt, I'm going to be back on the field," Davis said. "A lot of people are saying, 'He might be done. He might be done.' But I'm going to prove a lot of people wrong."

Exactly when he'll return, however, remains uncertain.

Davis, 31, just got off crutches two weeks ago and said there isn't a timetable for his return at this point.

"The good thing is that the trainers have been through it before," Davis said. "You have to be smart. You don't want to put pressure on it. A lot of times guys will have surgery and they feel so good afterward they think they can run. But you don't need to run. You have to let it rest and heal and be patient with it. But, honestly, I don't have a lot of patience."

Davis said it was a tough decision to have the operation at the midpoint of the season and go on injured reserve with the Panthers floundering at 1-7. The Panthers battled back and nearly earned a wild-card spot.

"It was a very hard (decision), but we have good doctors, good trainers and coach (John) Fox was a guy who was there for me as far as talking to me," Davis said. "And he's been very encouraging."

It's pretty clear Davis, who has three years left on his current contract, wants to be ready for Carolina's 2005 regular-season opener.

"I'm going to do what I have to do to get myself back on the field and ready for a 16-game season," Davis said.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said recently if anyone can make it back, it will be Davis.

"It's something that will take awhile to recover from," Hurney said. "It will be a process that takes several months, maybe longer. But Stephen is a guy who is very competitive, and he has great drive and determination."

Davis had microfracture surgery on his knee in mid-November, leading to speculation the nine-year veteran might have some trouble making it back from what historically has been an operation that hasn't worked out well for some players. Panthers wide receiver Patrick Jeffers is one example of a player who never fully recovered from the surgery, which requires doctors to drill microscopic holes in the kneecap so blood can clot between the kneecap and bone.

However, Davis' running mate DeShaun Foster had microfracture surgery on his knee during the 2002 season and did return to play in 2003, although the team brought him along slowly at first.

Together, Davis and Foster helped the Panthers rush for a franchise-record 2,091 yards in 2003 and reach the Super Bowl.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The loss of Steve Smith was a huge blow. I think the way Keary Colbert stepped up was a real positive. Even Moose's (Muhsin Muhammad) play, he became the go-to guy. I think his level of play was as good as I've seen. The running back situation. Brad Hoover rolled through there. Nick Goings, I can't say enough good things about. We proved that we have a little bit of depth there, especially when you lose so many guys at that position. Defensive tackle, losing the likes of a Kris Jenkins. For Kindal Moorehead to step in there and get valuable experience I think gives us a little more depth at that position. Chris Gamble started every game, and I watched him grow as the season wore on. I feel good about what he was able to do. Those are the guys that come to mind that stepped up and will definitely be guys for the future." -- Panthers head coach John Fox on what things took him by surprise in 2004.

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