Carolina Panthers

Panthers sign 43-year-old Testaverde as Carr's backup

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde talks to the media at Bank of America Stadium.
Quarterback Vinny Testaverde talks to the media at Bank of America Stadium.

CHARLOTTE -- Yes, really. Vinny Testaverde is the Carolina Panthers' new backup quarterback.

It might take a while to sink in, since all the jokes have been flying since he arrived Wednesday.

The soon-to-be 44-year-old Testaverde is older than five of the Panthers' assistant coaches, with a four-year gap on offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson and nearly nine years on quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy.

"I'm just surprised that people are still interested in a 44-year-old quarterback that hasn't played in five or six weeks," Testaverde said. "I'm excited. It's like starting as a rookie. That feeling you get -- excited, nervous, ready-to-go feeling."

The day he played his first NFL game (Sept. 20, 1987), there were at least 10 of his current teammates in diapers. Receiver Dwayne Jarrett was just nine days past his first birthday when Testaverde began his career 21 years ago.

The move gives them a pair of No. 1 overall picks on their quarterback depth chart. Starter David Carr was 7 years old when Testaverde was picked first in the 1987 draft. Third quarterback Matt Moore was 3 by the time Testaverde started.

Add Jarrett and fellow rookie Charles Johnson together and they don't equal the new guy's age.

"Heard a few as I'm walking to the line of scrimmage," Testaverde said after his first workout. "I haven't told them yet, but I have probably forgot more football than these guys already know. We'll have some fun with that."

The Panthers were grateful he was available, as the cupboard of available passers was mostly bare once they learned Jake Delhomme would need season-ending elbow surgery. They tried to get Testaverde Tuesday, but there were flight delays out of New York and he wasn't able to get out until 9 a.m. Wednesday. He was taken straight to Carolinas Medical Center for a physical, then back to the stadium for a double-duty introduction with trainers and the equipment staff.

By 10:30 a.m., he was on a cart riding to the practice field along with Steve Smith and kicker John Kasay, who playfully waved his arms at photographers, trying to shield his new teammate.

From a football standpoint, the Panthers hope to have Testaverde spun up quickly, since Carr's still sore from last week's back attack.

Coach John Fox quickly answered when asked if he thought Testaverde could be ready to start.

"Oh yeah, both mentally and physically," Fox said. "He's a guy we were fortunate to be able to find at this point in the season."

Fox mentioned Testaverde's familiarity with several members of the coaching staff. He coached against Testaverde in a Pitt-Miami game when they were in the college ranks together, and wide receivers coach Richard Williamson was his coach in Tampa Bay. Testaverde said he's gotten most of his Panthers updates from strength coach Jerry Simmons, who worked with him in Cleveland and Baltimore.

And while he hasn't been coached by Davidson (he was with the Jets most of the time Davidson was on the Patriots' staff), he's spent enough time in the New England system to be conversant in what's expected of him.

"Yeah, a lot of things are the same from when I was with the Jets and New England, so there is carryover," Testaverde said. "I came right in off the street and I'm running plays with the first and second team. Whether they went well or not has yet to be determined."

He's got plenty of background. He's been with six organizations (Tampa Bay, Cleveland/Baltimore, Jets, Dallas, Patriots and Carolina) and ranks sixth in league history in pass attempts, completions and yards, ninth in touchdowns.

That's why they're confident he can get them through, in case Carr's not ready.

"It's one of many challenges that lie ahead personally for me," Testaverde said. "To come in and help the team win and to be able to do it without the experience of being here, without the experience of knowing the players and getting ready to turn 44 years old, battling that issue, a lot of challenges lie ahead.

"If called upon, I feel like I could (start). Hopefully I won't need to take a snap this year. If that's the case, we'll have a great year."