Carolina Panthers

Testaverde to start Sunday

Carolina's Vinny Testaverde, top, is hoisted in the air by teammate Christian Fauria as they celebrate against the Cardinals earlier this season.
Carolina's Vinny Testaverde, top, is hoisted in the air by teammate Christian Fauria as they celebrate against the Cardinals earlier this season.

CHARLOTTE -- Two former No. 1 overall picks were going to start against each other anyway, but Sunday's Carolina-Indianapolis game is skewing older now.

Panthers coach John Fox announced Friday that 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde would start at quarterback, since David Carr's sore back isn't completely healed. Carr's well enough to play, but the Panthers chose to go with the guy who led them to an unlikely road win in their last outing in Arizona, four days after they brought him out of de facto retirement.

Carr has practiced fully all week, but is struggling to regain his mobility after suffering compression fractures in his back Oct. 7 at New Orleans. He's listed as probable for Sunday's game.

"It's not an indictment on David Carr by any stretch," Fox said. " I don't believe he's 100 percent. He's healthy enough to play, but I don't think he's 100 percent.

"It's not a season-long decision, it'll be game-to-game, and we're just going with Vinny this game."

Since the Panthers are the only team to ever have two top draft choices at quarterback (Testaverde in 1986 and Carr in 2002), it will naturally make this the first game ever with three first overall picks at the position (Peyton Manning, 1998).

Testaverde used to face Manning on a regular basis when he was with the New York Jets and the Colts were in the AFC East. They split the six head-to-head matchups, though Testaverde got the last laugh. He led a two-minute drill touchdown drive on Dec. 23, 2001, hitting tight end Anthony Becht for the game-winning score in the Jets' 29-28 win.

All this week, Testaverde has said he'd be ready to play, but said he expected Carr to start. When asked if he'd be disappointed to go back to the bench after the 25-10 win at Arizona, Testaverde showed the kind of veteran attitude that has earned him so many fans league-wide.

"If you ask any guy in this locker room and they will tell you they want to be on the field and I'm included in that," he said. "But the only way I know to be successful is if everyone is on the same page and working in the same direction. Whether David starts or I start and another guy is unhappy about it and makes it known to the players and coaches and everybody out there, it only hurts the team.

"And I'm not about hurting the team. I'm here to help the team. Whatever that role is, I'm going to accept it and move forward with it. That's how I view it. We don't have to be happy with the situation we're in, but we have to make sure we're working in a positive way to help the team be successful."

And while the decision's not a total surprise given Carr's health, Fox's decision to let the cat out of the bag was. He gave it back to reporters who poked fun at his penchant for "game-time decisions."

"Contrary to popular belief, this wasn't all about keeping our opponent in the dark," Fox said. "It was us sorting it out. I think we have two starting quarterbacks, albeit not our original starter six games ago, or even four games ago. So you'll have to be patient."