CHARLOTTE -- Carolina quarterback David Carr's going to play Sunday against Indianapolis, provided he's well.
That's still enough of a question to make the Panthers hedge, since he's still working his way back from a back injury three weeks ago in New Orleans.
All coach John Fox would cop to Wednesday was Carr would play if healthy, but he stopped short of any official proclamations. Backup Vinny Testaverde said the same thing, telling reporters he expected Carr to start once he was medically cleared. Carr practiced fully Wednesday, and Fox said he looked good.
"I'm not hiding anything," Fox said. "It's just I'm not totally sure yet. We'll just keep going along. One guy hasn't practiced in quite some time, and the other guy is fairly new."
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What else was new was the revelation that Carr's injury at least sounded more dramatic than initially reported, although it might not be as bad as it sounds.
Carr acknowledged that what he suffered against the Saints were several compression fractures of the spine, an injury most commonly associated with post-menopausal women and those with osteoporosis -- though getting sat on and twisted by 282-pound Saints defensive end Will Smith will do it, too.
"It's pretty much that," he said. "We just tried to do whatever we could to get it back. The muscles around it (the cracked vertebrae) are doing their job, they're trying to protect the spine. They're fighting us right now, but it's getting better."
He didn't want to get into too many particulars for several reasons, mostly competitive ones. All the Colts needed to do was watch him walk to know his back was messed up, so it's not as if covering things up will prevent him from taking excess shots to the area.
But Carr's approached his whole situation with a sense of humor. He refers to his problem as a "squished back," and cracked to reporters who asked about his condition that he's being treated well. "I just got my 72nd massage in 14 days, so I've got it pretty good. I'm not going to lie."
However, there are some long-term concerns about such fractures of the spine, including getting shorter with age in the most extreme cases.
Carr shrugged when asked about the potential effects, saying he didn't know if it was a future concern.
"I would say so if I felt it in my spine, but I feel it just in the muscles," he said. "If it was higher up, probably. If it was in my neck or the middle of my back, yeah. But it's the base of the spine and they're not that concerned about it."
While there's been something of an outcry for the 43-year-old Testaverde to start, the flip side is that Carr presents a better chance for stability, along with more familiarity since he's been around all offseason and Testaverde arrived two weeks ago.
Carr laughed and said that beyond the health issues, the call was Fox's.
"To tell you the truth, my decision lies in me getting healthy," Carr said. "As far as coach Fox, he's got a lot on his plate, more than just the two guys that have won games for him the last two weeks. He's got a lot of things to deal with.
"The Indianapolis Colts, they pose a much bigger threat than me and Vinny standing here."
Carr knows what it takes to beat the Colts, as he's the last guy to do it.
He led Houston to a Christmas Eve win over the Colts last year.
Carr completed 16-of-23 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown that day, but the key to the win was Ron Dayne running for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
But Carr's career hasn't been so kind, as that win made him 1-9 against the Colts, and the Texans were outscored 300-160 in those games. The Colts also sacked him 33 times, with six outings of at least four.
He talked about the "speed and discipline," that has them leading the league in pass defense and third overall.
"You've got to be able to run the ball -- when we beat them last year in Houston, that was it," Carr said. "You can't go in thinking you're just going to throw the ball all around the yard, because it's just not going to happen. That's what the defense is set up, to take that away, and make you one-dimensional. Then they let their front four feed on you. Up there, playing in Indy, it can get nasty. But, thank God we've got them here and hopefully our fans can get fired up for this game."
Despite his limitations and the team's issues with the ball, he's confident the Panthers can score enough to make it a game. If nothing else, his familiarity has bred a degree of contempt, which fuels Carr in his rehab efforts.
"They know I don't like them," Carr said. "The Colts know that. We've had our issues in the past. We've seen each other enough. It's going to be fun, man.
"I've just got to get my back right and get this thing healthy so I can get a chance to go out there."