Davis has potentially career ending surgery on right knee

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Carolina running back Stephen Davis had microfracture surgery on his right knee and the surgery is potentially career threatening.

But the Panthers downplayed the severity of it Wednesday. Backup running back DeShaun Foster had the same procedure in 2002 and didn't miss a beat, but wide receiver Patrick Jeffers had it and never played again.

``I think everybody is different,'' Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. ``Stephen is competitive and has drive and determination. It was just done and it will be a process that takes several months. We'll take it as it goes.''

Davis played in only two games this season before having arthroscopic surgery Sept. 17 to clean out torn cartilage in his knee. He played in one game after the procedure, but every time he tried to practice, his knee would swell.

Carolina put him on injured reserve last week, and he had the procedure Tuesday that requires doctors to drill holes into the kneecap.

When Foster had similar surgery, he missed one season and came back for a solid 2003 campaign. But Davis is six years older, and has a history of injury problems: He's played just one full 16-game schedule in his eight NFL seasons.

Davis turns 31 in March and has three years remaining on his contract. Although he ran for a franchise-best 1,444 yards last season, he ended this year with just 92 yards rushing.

Hurney said Carolina hopes Davis will follow the same rehabilitation path as Foster, who underwent microfracture surgery in October 2002 and returned to practice the following summer for training camp.

Unsure of how effective Foster would be, the Panthers signed Davis before the 2003 season, a move that allowed them to ease Foster back into the lineup.

If the Panthers follow a similar plan with Davis, he could begin next season as a backup to Foster, who is out this year with a broken collarbone.

``We haven't talked about a timetable at this point,'' Hurney said.