Carolina Panthers

Panthers mixing it up a bit

CHARLOTTE -- Coach John Fox is nothing if not a creature of habit.

So when travel plans change, it's usually for a significant -- or at least interesting -- reason.

The Panthers have generally flown on Saturday mornings when going west, but this week they're leaving early for Arizona, heading to the airport after their late-afternoon walk-through.

It could be argued that it's because they lost their last long road trip (the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Seattle), since the Panthers have been known to avoid specific hotels on the road if they accompanied a loss in previous trips.

"This isn't done because of superstition," Fox said. "This is being done to, hopefully, get us more acclimated to the time change and fresher. We've not done it with this team, but I've been on other teams that have done it and had success. Time will tell."

Six times under Fox the Panthers have crossed more than one time zone to get to a game, and they've split those. They've lost two in Seattle and one in Denver, but won a pair in Arizona and one in San Francisco.

In fairness, the last defeat in Seattle had more to do with playing physical games in New York and Chicago prior -- and that they ran out of running backs. "It was definitely the cumulative effect of already going to New York and Chicago," fullback Brad Hoover said.

• ITCHING TO GO: Prospective starting quarterback David Carr -- it's a little hard to tell these days -- was held out of practice Thursday, but said he did get a few throws in. He didn't practice Wednesday either, resting his sore back, which was wrenched in last weekend's win at New Orleans.

"Better today," he said in the locker room after practice. "I threw some balls. It wasn't bad. Wasn't as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. So, it was positive."

Carr said he had initially given some thought to resting this week, since it's before the bye and he'd have had three weeks to heal. But with the progress he's made, he's hoping he can work today, and stay in the starting lineup.

"I probably could," he said with a shrug at the potential of starting without practicing all week. "I don't know the rules around here, as far as what Fox does. I've been some places where if you don't practice, they don't want you to play.

"I'm going to see if I can get out there and do something, even if it is a little sore. Just get some reps, some of the plays we're running. It's not like I've been with these guys forever."

When asked if he was hopeful that Carr could work today, Fox replied: "I was hopeful he would today, but he didn't, so we'll see how it goes tomorrow."

• EXTRA POINTS: Fox was careful to point out that rookie Ryne Robinson was still in the mix for punt returns, even though Pro Bowl wideout Steve Smith went back to his roots last week. Smith had the only return of the game, taking one 6 yards. That's under the 7.3-yard average that got Robinson demoted.

"Steve did that a year ago, and he's done that a little bit, at least through my tenure here," Fox said. "I think he came into the league pretty exclusive as a return man, both kick and punt. He's built himself into a real big part of an offense." ...

Linebacker James Anderson (thigh) returned to practice fully Thursday after being limited the day before. Likewise, cornerback Ken Lucas (shoulder), came back on a limited basis after being out.

Otherwise, the injury report was unchanged, with Carr, linebackers Dan Morgan and Adam Seward and running back Nick Goings held out.