As the Carolina Panthers prepare for the 2022 season, one of their best players is finally ready to join them. Linebacker Shaq Thompson underwent knee surgery this offseason but is now able to get back on the field with a few weeks to prepare.

The Panthers announced that they have activated Thompson from the physically unable to perform list. His presence on the field will be crucial for the rebuilding squad.

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“He played really good football last year,” Rhule said about Thompson at the beginning of training camp, via Darin Gantt of the team’s website. “When you watch Shaq, especially when he’s healthy, I thought he would play Pro Bowl-caliber football. But he affected games and made plays…I can’t wait to see him come back healthy and be able to play, and be able to play a lot longer at the standard he’s capable of.”

In 14 games last season, Thompson had 104 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, five passes defended, two sacks and a career-high two interceptions. Carolina needs every advantage they can get and his skills and leadership are very important advantages. Their defense should be a strength of the team with Thompson re-joining Brian Burns and Jaycee Horn.

The unbearable uncertainties around the offense mean that the defense will be relied on heavily. The Panthers are not expected to win a lot of games but could remain competitive if Shaq Thompson is at full strength again and the defense steps up. Carolina faces the Cleveland Browns in Week 1.