Carolina Panthers

Testaverde named starting QB over Carr

CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers weren't necessarily looking to make any statements.

They just want to start the same guy three weeks in a row for the first time since September.

Coach John Fox sent a ripple through the assembled media with his early declaration that Vinny Testaverde would start this week against New Orleans, provided he stays healthy. It's interesting because Fox usually waits as long as he can to make such calls, and the Panthers have all three quarterbacks as well as at any point this season. It also carries the additional implication that the 44-year-old Testaverde's simply a better option than David Carr right now.

That's an embarrassing admission considering the two-year, $6.3 million deal they signed Carr to this offseason to carry Jake Delhomme's clipboard, a plan that was scuttled in Week 3 when Delhomme's elbow flew apart.

"We make decisions based on who gives us the best chance," Fox said. "Not always money, not always what (draft) round. We make those decisions not on any polls on the outside, just based on who we think gives us the best chance.

"Right now we think that's Vinny."

The move was met with more reaction outside the building than inside. Testaverde said Fox never mentioned it to him, but he was preparing as if he was starting against the Saints this weekend anyway.

"I just assumed it was the same as last week, until somebody taps you on the back," he said with a shrug. "That's usually how you substitute, you get the tap on the back. No tap yet."

Testaverde drew raves in Charlotte after signing on a Wednesday and beating Arizona four days later, but he wasn't able to finish the next game or play at Tennessee because of Achilles tendinitis.

The Cardinals game sticks in their minds, largely because of the 25 points they scored that afternoon is more than in any game since.

"I was real impressed with him that first game," Fox said. "If everything had gone right, he probably would have been the guy the next week, but unfortunately, that didn't work out.

"Like any team when you get injuries, you move onto the next step. There for about four or five games we had instability at that position, and hopefully we can keep some stability moving forward."

Testaverde was nonchalant about the announcement, though he admitted it was gratifying to be viewed as a solution rather than just a last-resort, and thinks it can provide something for a team that's been begging for answers at the position.

"For me, I don't see it as being that different," he said. "I think for the guys in the locker room it may be different to know that 'Hey, we've got the same guy in there.' That's kind of a comfortable feeling for them to not have to look back and say, 'Who's in there this week?', that kind of thing.

"My style of play and sitting in the pocket as opposed to David's or somebody else's, so they know how to approach their job and I think that's, for them in their mind mentally, that's comforting."

He's clearly the known commodity at this point, which factors heavily into the decision.

His next touchdown pass will move him past Joe Montana into eighth place on the league's all-time list, and he ranks sixth all-time in attempts, completions and yards.

Several players acknowledged the steadying influence Testaverde brings to the huddle as well, but what he's done on the field here's more important.

He's generated 62 points in 14 quarters, while Carr was responsible for 40 points in 15 quarters. He's also shown an ability to move the ball downfield, with nine pass plays of more than 20 yards, including four last week in Green Bay

"He's been in the league 21 years; you're not in the game that long if you don't know what you're doing," wide receiver Steve Smith said. "They called him up, and he was riding ready.

"He's coming in here benching 350, 400 pounds and comes out throwing 50 and 60-yard bombs, you kind of get a sense he knows what he's doing."

Fox said he thinks part of the reason the Panthers were able to score a pair of touchdowns in the second half of the Packers game (as well as convert 4-of-7 third downs after going 1-of-7 in the first half) was the "continuity at quarterback."

Testaverde referred to it as "the light coming on," and said he hopes to be able to capitalize on the expected return of Steve Smith to shine more.

"We made some plays, the light being a spark," he said. "We do have some firepower, we can make some plays, we can be explosive. That's what I mean by the light. Not that we weren't getting it.

"Just that there's a spark there, there's some energy, there's some excitement about what we did in the second half and what we can do going forward."

Carr said he's only now beginning to feel right again, after suffering a concussion and compression fractures in his back on Oct. 7 at New Orleans, then following that up with another concussion on Nov. 4 at Tennessee.

That he hasn't been well soothed the news of being benched in favor of the oldest position player in the league, or what it might mean to his career, considering he was once the first overall pick in the draft.

"You can sit back and think about things like that," Carr said. "If I was 100 percent all year, definitely. If I hadn't gotten injured, yeah I'd be bummed out I wasn't playing. But there are a lot of other things that have gone into the decisions coach Fox has had to make. My health and just the nature of the team and where we're at right now, there are a lot of things that go into that.

"If I was healthy, yeah I'd be pretty bummed out. But not right now."