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Normally quiet Davis stresses game's import

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The injury report lists Stephen Davis as
questionable to play against Denver. His behavior Wednesday made
him look more like a probable.
The first sign came in the morning meetings.
"He's ready to go," center Jeff Mitchell said. "He's been
awake in all the meetings."
The next sign came halfway through practice, when Davis
surprised Carolina's offensive linemen by pulling them together to
talk about Sunday's game in Denver.
"He said he wanted us to know the importance of this game, and
that he really wants to come back and have a solid performance,"
said left tackle Jordan Gross.
Just how out of character was that for the typically subdued
running back?
"He didn't do that all of last year," Gross said. "He's
really a quiet guy, and for him to come out and say we need to get
going -- it really got me excited for this game."
Davis hasn't played since the season-opening loss to Green Bay
because he had arthroscopic surgery Sept. 17 to repair torn
cartilage in his left knee.
Although Carolina is secure with backup DeShaun Foster, having
both backs healthy gives them a 1-2 punch that the Panthers hope
will jump-start their stagnant running game.
"When you have one back, which we had with DeShaun, and you
really want to put the ball in his hands, it takes away from some
of the things you can do offensively," Gross said. "Now when we
have Stephen in there and DeShaun to back him up, we're going to be
able to be a lot more aggressive with play calling.
"Having both of them, you can use the whole playbook."
The Panthers (1-2) need to do something to get their offense
rolling, particularly the ground game.
A year after averaging 130 yards a game, Carolina is managing
just 96 this season.
The Panthers have gone over 100 yards just once, when Foster ran
for 174 against Kansas City's porous defense. They gained just 38
yards in a loss to Green Bay, and 67 in a loss to Atlanta.
Davis, who ran for a franchise-best 1,444 yards last season, has
just nine carries for 26 yards this year. Foster has 237 yards
rushing.
Coach John Fox said Davis' status depends on how his knee reacts
after the workout.