Both the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos are relatively healthy heading into Super Bowl 50. Key players on each team are battling injuries, but it will be difficult to keep them off the field in the year’s biggest game.
Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis suffered a broken arm in the NFC Championship, but he expects to play on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. Denver defensive backs Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward are both banged up, but they’ve both made it clear they plan to play against the Panthers.
When Davis went down against the Arizona Cardinals, it seemed clear that his season was finished. But Davis made it known immediately that he would play in the team’s next game, and he’s on track to make his first ever Super Bowl appearance.
Davis underwent surgery following Carolina’s win over Arizona, having a plate and more than 10 screws inserted into his arm to fix his broken bone. After resting all of last week, he was a limited participant in Monday’s practice, testing the limits of his surgically repaired arm.
“It was a light day but I took every opportunity that I could to bump it against something and really see how it feels,” Davis said after Monday’s practice via The Charlotte Observer. “All in all it was pretty good. I know it’s going to be different when you’re actually out there and things are live when we’re playing the game on Sunday, but at the same time for it to be my first opportunity to get back out there I really felt good.”
Davis has battled through his injuries over his entire 11-year career, coming back from three ACL tears. Only Luke Kuechly had more tackles for Carolina in the regular season, and Davis added 5.5 sacks and four interceptions.
Running back Jonathan Stewart has battled foot and ankle injuries for the past month, but he’s practicing and will be ready to play. A broken bone in Jared Allen’s foot kept the defensive end out of the NFC Championship, but he says he’s "100 percent ready" to play on Sunday. Head coach Ron Rivera said the team will know more on Friday.
Much like Davis, Ward and Stewart don’t plan on being held back by injuries. Ward has been nursing an injured ankle for two months, and Stewart sprained his MCL in the AFC Championship. Head coach Gary Kubiak expects both players to practice after resting last week.
“Without a doubt in my mind, I’m playing,” Stewart said.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to play in this game, and you can run a little bit, I’m guaranteeing you’re going to be out there,” Ward said.
Ward was named a Pro Bowl alternate, ranking fourth on the team with 61 tackles. Stewart finished just ahead of him with 63 tackles and an interception.
The two Super Bowl teams are healthy when they need to be, but they’ve suffered their share of major injuries. Before the regular season began, Carolina lost No.1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a torn ACL. Denver linebacker DeMarcus Ware missed five games in 2015, and backup quarterback Brock Osweiler started seven times in place of the injured Peyton Manning.