CHARLOTTE -- Getting back to practice was the first step for Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross, but getting through practice without any lingering effects from his concussion was the best sign.
Though he couldn't declare himself ready to play against Tampa Bay this weekend, leaving that to coach John Fox, Gross said Thursday he feels ready to go.
"I'm physically capable, and I feel fine," Gross said. "I haven't been given the go-ahead by Fox yet, so it's his decision."
That's good news for the Panthers, even though they got through last week's game against Kansas City without him. It was the first game he had missed in his career, breaking a streak of 91 consecutive starts including the playoffs.
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What wasn't new is the training staff being cautious with head injuries. Having gone through multiple concussions with former linebacker Dan Morgan and running back Nick Goings, they were careful with Gross.
"It's nice because I'm not the guinea pig with this thing," Gross said. "We've had guys here that have dealt with it, so they are cautious with it. I haven't talked to the team doctors yet, but I jumped through all of the hoops so everything is on track."
Gross said the biggest concern after he took a knee to the head against Atlanta on Sept. 28 was blurred vision. He felt a little groggy for a few days but turned the corner last weekend. "Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, it clicked, and I felt good," he said.
As much as it pains him to admit, Gross wouldn't have been able to go last week to keep the streak alive, despite feeling better.
"I didn't practice all week and the tough guy in you says yes, but you can't mess with your brain. It was the right thing to do," he said. "If we would have been struggling offensively, I would have felt bad. But I told them afterward, 'Thanks, that was fun to watch.'"
As is his custom, Fox wasn't saying much about the injured players, though he was obviously pleased to get Gross and right tackle Jeff Otah (ankle) back.
• McCOWN BOWL: Backup quarterback Josh McCown has played against his brother before, but this time it counts. He saw little brother Luke during the preseason, when he was still with Miami, but this is the first regular-season meeting. Luke McCown might be the Bucs' backup by this weekend, with Brian Griese hurt and Jeff Garcia expected to start.
They know that as brother acts go, they pale by comparison in the NFL.
"It's not exactly Manning vs. Manning," McCown said with a laugh, noting the recent rash of stories about which brother's better from the league's first family of QBs. That doesn't leave much time to discuss their family and how they might stack up.
"I know. I know. Constantly, it's Eli (Manning) and Peyton (Manning). All the time," McCown said, shaking his head in mock disgust. "Luke and I are sitting there saying, 'What have they done?'
"You know, what are you going to do? Not everybody can be Super Bowl MVPs back-to-back years. We figured we'd never top that."
There's actually a third passing McCown, older brother Randy. He played at Texas A&M and never advanced to pro football. He's the oldest, and the rest are two years apart.
• HORROR MOVIE: Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said he struggled watching film of the Panthers' 34-0 win over Kansas City.
"Any time you dominate from start to finish on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game, that's impressive," Gruden said. "I had to turn the film off and go for a walk. I got a little nervous, you know what I mean? They're playing their butts off."
• EXTRA POINTS: In addition to Gross and Otah, most of the injured were back to practice Thursday, although center Ryan Kalil (ankle) is still out.
Super-sub Geoff Hangartner would replace Kalil, and while it further upsets a line which has had no continuity, it wouldn't be tragic since quarterback Jake Delhomme's taken more snaps from Hangartner anyway.
Also returning were linebacker Na'il Diggs (foot), defensive tackle Darwin Walker (thigh) and safety Quinton Teal (ankle). Walker and Teal were limited, but Diggs practiced fully. Wide receiver D.J. Hackett (knee) was out and is expected to miss a few weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament.