SAN FRANCISCO — With so much at stake, it’s all hands on deck for both Super Bowl 50 teams.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who broke his arm in the NFC Championship Game win over Arizona, is listed as probable for Sunday’s game. So are defensive end Jared Allen (foot) and running back Mike Tolbert (knee).
Injured Broncos safeties T.J. Ward (ankle) and Darian Stewart (knee) also are probable.
Each player has made it clear this week that he has no plans to miss the biggest game of his season. Especially Davis.
The 11-year veteran was so determined to be ready for the Super Bowl that he had surgery the morning after the Panthers beat the Cardinals, 49-15, on Jan. 24.
“When I initially found out, I didn’t think that I was going to have the opportunity to play in this game,” Davis said this week. “But from my doctors looking at the images, seeing where the break was and seeing that they could go in and fix it, they told me immediately, ‘Hey, we can fix this, and we can have surgery in the morning.’ From that moment on, I was excited, and it was all about the rehab process.”
Allen, 33, didn’t get a chance to play in the conference title game after breaking a small bone in his right foot in the Panthers’ divisional-round win over Seattle.
“I made it early,” coach Ron Rivera said of his decision to make Allen inactive for the game, “because I felt the guys that were going to get the opportunity to play needed to know that they were going to play and they needed to focus . . . Coming into this game, having a veteran guy up there that other guys are comfortable with, is going to pay dividends.”
After being limited in Wednesday’s practice, Allen was full go Thursday and Friday.
Rivera said the defensive end “earned the rest” after going “full blast since we started.”
Asked about his foot this week, Allen insisted: “Great. Everything is phenomenal.” As for being able to start in the Super Bowl, he said he can’t wait to get out on the field. “Hopefully, my smile speaks for itself,” he said. “There’s not a better feeling than being here right now and being able to play in this game.”
The Broncos also are coming into Super Bowl 50 at full strength.
“Guys have played their whole careers to get to this point,” Ward said. “Some never do, and for us to be here is very special.”
Stewart told reporters on Monday that he was going to play despite his sprained knee. His presence, along with Ward’s, will be critical in the Broncos’ attempt to stop the Panthers’ potent offense.
“I love it,” Stewart said of playing alongside Ward. “[It’s] been great. When I first signed here and knowing just the type of talent that we had in the secondary, let alone the whole team, it was special.”
The Panthers agree.
“They are fun to watch,” Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly said of the Broncos’ defense. “T.J. Ward is a fun guy to watch. He is a guy who comes down, plays physical and is all over the place. I have a lot of respect for those guys on their team because they fly around and play football how it’s supposed to be played. Some of the things they do, we try to do as well.”