Carolina Panthers

Morgan plays full game without injury

St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger throws the ball past the outstretched arm of Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers.
St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger throws the ball past the outstretched arm of Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers.

ST. LOUIS -- The Carolina Panthers can now exhale for another week, before they start holding their breath again.

Linebacker Dan Morgan made it through his first game of the season unscathed, a remarkable accomplishment after missing almost the entire 2006 season because of repeated concussion problems.

He was credited with a team-high seven tackles in the 27-13 win over the Rams, but most importantly, he was able to walk out under his own power and smile afterward.

"Absolutely," he said with a laugh when asked if he had butterflies before the game. "I mean you get nervous before any game. I was more excited than anything else.

"It's just great to get this one under my belt. I felt great out there today and just real nice to be back out there."

Since he's come back, Morgan's been hounded by questions about his condition. He's suffered five concussions by his count, and at a time when the league's paying more attention than ever to head trauma, he's become a poster boy for the discussion. He even restructured his contract to protect the team from another such injury, turning a $2 million roster bonus into 16 installments of $125,000 per game played.

He shrugged when asked if he hopes the questions stop now, knowing full well they won't.

"Whatever. I don't care," he said. "They can keep coming. That is part of what has happened to me and I understand that.

"It meant a lot. It felt good to be back out there. My number one thing was coming back and being out there with the guys and having a good time. That's what we did out there today. We were just out there flying around having a good time."

• NEW STARTERS: First-round pick Jon Beason started his first NFL game at weakside linebacker, after cramming to catch up after his eight-day holdout. He had alternated with the starters through the preseason, along with veteran Na'il Diggs.

Keary Colbert also got the nod at the second wide receiver slot, starting his 35th career game.

• JARRETT INACTIVE: As expected, second-round pick Dwayne Jarrett didn't get a uniform for Sunday's game, one of eight players declared inactive.

It's fairly typical of the way the Panthers operate since they generally keep four receivers up, and hardly unprecedented. In 2004, second-rounder Colbert didn't get a uniform for the opener, but started the rest of the season after Steve Smith broke his ankle. In 2005, trade acquisition Rod Gardner sat, along with Drew Carter.

Defensive end Stanley McClover, who missed some time with a thigh injury last week, also was held out. The other inactives were defensive end Charles Johnson, linebacker Tim Shaw, safeties Nate Salley and Quinton Teal, tackle Frank Omiyale and third quarterback Matt Moore.

• EXTRA POINTS: Panthers owner Jerry Richardson brought the alumni with him Sunday, bringing retired safety Mike Minter and running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka to the game. ... Normally steady kicker John Kasay pushed a 47-yard attempt wide right in the second quarter, a remarkable miss for a guy who's so steady on shorter kicks. He was 20-of-20 inside 50 yards last season, and his only three misses in 2006 were from 53, 65 and 50 yards. ... The win was coach John Fox's 50th as the Panthers coach. His combined record now stands at 50-38 (.568). ... Panthers director of ticket sales Phil Youtsey said Houston returned approximately 300 tickets for next Sunday's game in Charlotte, which will be available through Ticketmaster.