Carolina Panthers

Let the old QB jokes start now

CHARLOTTE -- The age jokes are always going to be there.

But it's hard to view Panthers quarterback Vinny Testaverde as a curiosity when it's clear he's the best quarterback on the roster right now.

Testaverde will start today in Green Bay, days after his 44th birthday. With 38-year-old Packers quarterback Brett Favre, he'll be part of the oldest starting duo of quarterbacks in league history, at 82 years and 44 days.

Testaverde handles the comments with grace, mentioning that it came up last year when he threw a touchdown to Troy Brown, making them the oldest combination to hook up for a score. But at some point, the novelty has to wear off, even if he shrugs his way through it.

"I'm not sure how people look at me. I know how I feel," Testaverde said. "I know what I can do on the field and I try to do what I'm capable of doing, and not doing too much. I go from there.

"I saw a guy a few weeks ago, he was younger than me, I thought he was 55 years old. It's not how old you are or how old you look, it's how old you feel."

It's doubtless that he's the Panthers' best option right now, even with the Achilles tendinitis he said would probably be "a nagging thing the rest of the year."

In his 10 quarters leading the offense, the Panthers have scored 45 points. With David Carr under center, they've managed 40 points in 15 quarters.

Of course, it's probably not going to be enough to match Favre, who's leading the league's top passing attack. He's had to endure enough old jokes of his own as well. During last week's Sunday night game, right tackle Mark Tauscher introduced him as "Vinny Testaverde's dad."

Favre joked that Testaverde "loves the game or he's broke; one of the two," to come back this year, but expressed nothing but respect for today's opponent.

"Here's Vinny at 43 still doing it, still starting, still called upon on a Sunday after he was picked up Wednesday with way more physically gifted quarterbacks out there now," Favre told reporters in Green Bay. "When Vinny came out he was as physically gifted as any guy that had ever played. But the trust factor that I think coaches or owners or organizations have in a guy like that is so valuable.

"Maybe he's not going to go out there and do anything spectacular after picking him up on a Wednesday, but maybe he's not going to do anything to hurt you as well. Those type of guys are hard to come by, whether they're 43 or 35 or whatever."

• NOT MUCH HELP FOR PEPPERS: Defensive end Julius Peppers might not have many sacks (1.5 in nine games), but it's not for a lack of opportunity.

In fact, the lack of help might help explain why he looks more gassed than ever coming off the field.

Peppers has played 545 of the team's 591 plays so far this season (92.2 percent). That's a higher percentage than they'd like, particularly since most of the sub time is for fellow starter Mike Rucker, who's played 493-of-591 (83.4 percent).

The backups, either Stanley McClover or Otis Grigsby, have played just 146 snaps between them (24.7 percent), and logged just four quarterback pressures and no sacks.

• PARADIGM SHIFT: Earlier this year, the cool stat was that when Panthers running back DeShaun Foster touched the ball 15 times or more, they were nearly unbeatable, reaching a 23-2 mark in such games.

Since they've lost three straight when that happens, there's a different way to look at it if you're seeking a silver lining.

When he gets to 70 rushing yards in a game (which he hasn't the last three), the Panthers are a perfect 16-0.

• MODERN AMENITIES: Former Packers guard Mike Wahle said he never went in the visiting locker rooms when he played for the Packers, but he's hoping that Lambeau Field's recent renovation has helped things this weekend.

"I've never been there, not in the old one or since they re-did it," Wahle said last week. "I heard the old one was really awful. I'm hoping since they re-did the stadium this one is a little better. Like doors on the bathroom stalls and stuff like that."

• NO SURPRISE HERE: The first results of Pro Bowl balloting are in, and no Panthers lead the NFC at their positions.

Favre led all vote-getters with 458,837 in early returns, ahead of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Tony Romo in the overall voting.

Dallas wideout Terrell Owens leads all the NFC receivers, and with the Panthers' quarterback issues, it's easy to imagine Steve Smith's run of two straight Pro Bowl trips ending. Smith's currently 12th in the conference in catches and 13th in yards, with his 45 receptions for 590 yards.

• EXTRA POINTS: Speaking of Grigsby, the Panthers cut him on Saturday. To fill his spot on the roster, they promoted defensive tackle Gary Gibson from the practice squad. Gibson will serve as insurance in case backup tackle Damion Lewis isn't able to go because of shoulder problems.

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