CHARLOTTE -- Matt Moore grinned a lopsided grin when the reporters crowded around his locker Tuesday, bopping his way through the throng to get into yet another spot he never figured to be in.
If his rookie season has taught him one thing, it's to be ready for anything.
He went to camp with Dallas, but now he's starting against the Cowboys this week for the Carolina Panthers, something he never envisioned coming out of college an undrafted rookie.
"Certainly, I did not expect any of this," Moore said. "I guess in this league you've got to be ready for anything, at any point in time. I keep saying it, but you literally just have to go with it, pick it up on the run and try to do your best."
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The Panthers would have preferred never to get to this point, since he's their fourth starter. But Moore's shown enough in flashes to earn some respect, mostly for last week's win over Seattle.
He didn't do all that much (he wasn't asked to), but he kept the game close, made enough plays to keep the defense from getting discouraged and kept the Panthers in position to steal a 13-10 win.
He completed 19-of-27 passes for 208 yards -- but most importantly, no interceptions. That he's still waiting for his first touchdown is more bearable, since he bumped his passer rating from 21.1 to 53.9.
"I'm pleased with just how I managed the game," Moore said. "I didn't make a huge mistake. Any little turnover or a third-down mishap or whatever, that could have changed the game.
"There are some things I wish I could have hit. That could be my feet, or being quicker in the pocket and kind of going through my reads a hair quicker."
It wasn't completely new to Moore, since he appeared in six games earlier this season. But those were hardly normal circumstances, including one in which he was brought in for a last-play heave -- one of his three interceptions. He took 40 snaps prior to last week but only handed off eight times, proof he's not exactly getting fair chances to exhibit his skills.
"I thought he did some good things," coach John Fox said. "We had a couple of stretches where it was a little rough. But for the first time for a rookie to go out there, I thought he did some good things and made some good throws.
"Luckily, we've had him out there a little bit, so he's had an opportunity to play, in particularly in some hurry-up situations, which tend to be sometimes the most complicated and rattling of all."
It seems hard to rattle Moore. He's possessed with an easy grace which borders on a surfer-dude detachment, and he mostly nods and shrugs when asked about his unusual rookie year. Even though he's won nine of his last 10 starts, dating to Oregon State, he's still a little uneasy in the spotlight, generally offering up the standard rookie fare of clichés.
"I've been saying all year, any experience is good experience," Moore said. "Even though I did get in those past couple games, it was a little rough at times.
"I can't explain how it benefits me, but it does, just being in there. It's so much better than if I was have to started Sunday without playing at all -- it's a world of difference."
He needs to get used to the attention, because he's entering rare air. With the media camping out in front of his locker, coupled with the sudden, white-hot popularity known only by those who were once backups, he's entering the realm of legends. Players such as Dameyune Craig, Randy Fasani and, for a time, Chris Weinke got that treatment in Charlotte, but Moore's been exposed to even bigger luminaries.
This pales in comparison to what he learned in Dallas this summer, working alongside poster-boy Tony Romo -- whose dating habits are grist for the rumor mill and the tabloid television shows. That was never as evident as last week, when TV cameras honed in on pop star Jessica Simpson wearing a pink version of Romo's jersey at the Cowboys game with Philadelphia. The Cowboys quarterback also has been linked to former "American Idol" star Carrie Underwood and others.
Moore, who married his high-school sweetheart last summer, grinned when asked if his old teammate was bringing his girlfriend to Charlotte.
"I don't know; I don't know who it'll be," Moore said with a laugh. "I try to stay out of that. I talk football with Tony, that's about it.
"It's funny, because whoever he's dating, he's still a normal guy to me. I know it's hard to see that, but he's just a down-to-earth, pretty good dude."
The newlywed then smoothly covered his bases, saying, "I'm married ... I've got my Jessica Simpson at home."
It was a good save, a quick pick-up for a guy who's gotten used to being forced into such situations this year.