Carolina Panthers

Fox mum on quarterback situation

Panthers' QB Vinny Testaverde calls a play at the line.
Panthers' QB Vinny Testaverde calls a play at the line.

CHARLOTTE -- Just as there's no predicting which turn the Carolina Panthers quarterback position will take next, coach John Fox isn't about to declare which way he's thinking of turning it.

Fox was asked Tuesday if David Carr would return to the starting lineup after the bye, provided he recovered from the back injury that knocked him out last week. Fox hedged, given the impressive short-time performance of Vinny Testaverde.

"I think right now we're going to evaluate it as we go," Fox said. "We have options. We didn't have these same options a week ago or really the last couple of weeks. I'm not going to commit to it now. A lot of it is based on what we see in practice or whoever gives us the best chance to win.

"Really, four days ago when I looked at practice and I saw two guys that weren't with us in September, I definitely wasn't worried about all of the options we might have a week later -- or if there would be any options."

That it's a question at all speaks to the impressive nature of Testaverde's uptake.

After three practices and a walk-through -- one of which he didn't even get a chance to prepare -- Testaverde led the Panthers to an unlikely 25-10 win at Arizona. He completed 20-of-33 for 206 and a touchdown, with the biggest play of the game his 65-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith.

Fox said that his elder quarterback was able to play at all was an accomplishment, and said the rest of the team might have given the Panthers a chance to be even better.

"It was a great preparation performance," Fox said. "And I don't care about the age or anything. For anybody to do that, that's a huge accomplishment. The guy played well. It wasn't like he just went out there and handed the ball off every play and got us out of a game. He played well.

"Early on, we had to make adjustments with the guys around him. We stayed with the plan. If anything, we didn't execute around him early in the game. We stuck with it and cleaned some things up at halftime. We executed better in that game in the second half offensively."

The adjustments have been par for the course for the Panthers, who have used four quarterbacks in the last four games. Carr came in for Jake Delhomme in Atlanta when the starter came up with what would be a season-ending elbow problem.

Rookie Matt Moore, a waiver claim from Dallas, had to sub in for Carr two weeks later when the former No. 2 had to leave the game with a back problem. That led them to sign Testaverde, who turned down a chance to play in Arizona in order to stay closer to his family in New York. That doesn't even count Brett Basanez, who they hoped to be their third before a season-ending wrist injury in the preseason.

"I think it's like any change, you adjust something and it affects a lot of people," Fox said. "When it's the quarterback position, it's your field judge and he's in charge of communicating the huddle call, there's time management issues. There's a lot going on in that guy's mind and that is why the quarterback position is so key. Typically, the guys with really good ones do well.

"It's a difficult position to have injuries at. But our guys have responded well, whether it's been David Carr, Matt Moore or Vinny last week. Guys have responded well."

While the players involved are still getting to know one another, the bigger issues are for the coaching staff.

After all, they knew exactly what to expect of Delhomme. Carr was a more mobile, athletic guy, with not as much arm and a tendency to hold on to the ball too long. Moore was a babe in the woods, able to do only the basics since he went to camp with the Cowboys.

Testaverde brought a different element altogether. He's not going to move around much, but he's clearly got the strongest arm of the bunch, and he's looked most comfortable when airing it out.

Fox said it was comparable to the defense's game-planning for Arizona, since they initially had to get ready for left-handed Matt Leinart and right-handed Kurt Warner, since the Cardinals did different things with each.

"I think the burden kind of falls on the coaching staff, making sure they're getting the right calls with the right guys," Fox said.

• EXTRA POINTS: Linebacker Dan Morgan walked out of Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday without a protective boot or a limp, after missing the last three games with a partial tear of the Achilles tendon. When asked if he thought he'd be ready for Indianapolis in two weeks, Morgan grinned and said: "I hope so, but this is a serious day-to-day."

Where to put him's another question which Fox dodged, and it's reasonable to ask since rookie Jon Beason's played so well there. Morgan's played outside before, so it's possible he could swap spots with Beason or play the weakside himself.

"We'll kind of evaluate that when those things arise," Fox said. "It's good to have some competition within your own team. We'll put the guy in there we think gives us the best chance." ...

Fox said the only new injury from Sunday's game was left guard Mike Wahle, who left the game late with a "slight concussion." But he said Wahle felt fine and should be OK to practice. ...

The Panthers will return to practice today and Thursday before getting the rest of the weekend off.

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