CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Stephen Davis certainly doesn't lack confidence.
Coming off the best season of his career, the Carolina running back has even higher expectations this year.
"I feel real good, I haven't felt like this in a long time," Davis said. "I just want to do better than I did last year."
All Davis did last year was revive his career with the Panthers, running them into their first Super Bowl appearance in team history.
It was a good fit for Davis, who was seemingly near the end of his career after eight years in Washington. Released by then-coach Steve Spurrier -
some say it was a salary-cap move, others claim Davis didn't fit into the offense - Davis was snapped up by the Panthers, who made him the focus of
their running game.
He responded with a career-best 1,444 yards, helped Carolina win the NFC championship and earned his third Pro Bowl invitation.
Still, he's never mentioned among the NFL's elite running backs. If that bothers him, Davis doesn't let on.
He also doesn't look at Carolina's Monday night opener against Green Bay as a chance to prove anything. He'll be squaring off against Ahman Green, who
gets the nod over Davis even in the Panthers' locker room.
"Ahman Green, he's probably the best back in the league right now," Carolina safety Mike Minter said.
Davis doesn't really have anything to prove to his teammates.
He was the workhorse of Carolina's offense at the start of the season last year when quarterback Jake Delhomme was still feeling his way around. That
left it to Davis to carry the load, opening the season with five consecutive 100-yard games as Carolina went 5-0.
Davis ended up with career marks for yards rushing, rushing touchdowns (8), rushing attempts (318) and 100-yard rushing games (seven).
"As near perfect as you can get," coach John Fox said. "I thought he had an outstanding season for us and I look for him to have some of the same
success this year."
But to others, Davis is considered to be on the downside of his career.
He's older than the top running backs and certainly not as durable. Nagging injuries have hampered him the past few seasons, including last year, when
he missed two regular-season games and was limited in some of the playoff appearances.
There's also the theory that Davis played with a chip on his shoulder last season, pushing himself to his career-best numbers to show Spurrier and the
Redskins they were wrong to get rid of him.
Davis disputes that.
"I had 800 yards and I missed five games in Washington," he said. "When I did get the opportunity, I made the best of it. That (injuries) was my
biggest regret as far as my last year in Washington.
"When I came here I wanted the coaches to believe in me. It was something new that I needed coming off a year with Spurrier and an opportunity to play
my style of football again."
Davis gets his chance Monday night to prove he can go yard for yard with Green, but he won't look at the opportunity like that.
"It's not going to be a showdown," he said. "Ahman Green is a great running back and he does some things I don't do and I do some things he doesn't
do. But there is no showdown."
The main thing Davis wants this year is to stay healthy, with his eye on playing in all 16 regular-season games. He's only done it once before, in
"Being a running back in the NFL, you will get the wear and tear," Davis said. "You have to be durable to go through it. But that's a goal, to play
the whole season injury free, although anything can happen. I'm just going to take it one game at a time and roll on."