CHARLOTTE -- The Panthers aren't scoring many points, but that doesn't keep them from admiring those who can.
A pair of former New England Patriots in Charlotte said Wednesday they had nothing but respect for the way their old team is rolling up points, even though some have taken umbrage with their style.
The Patriots have scored 411 points in 10 games, on pace to record 658 this season. By contrast, the Panthers have 167 points.
The league record is 556 by Minnesota in 1998, the highlight of the Randy Moss / Cris Carter / Robert Smith / Randall Cunningham years.
When asked Wednesday if he's ever seen anything like the pace his old teammates are setting, quarterback Vinny Testaverde just shook his head.
"I don't think anybody has," he replied. "It's somewhat like the perfect storm. They've got the coaching, the system, the players, the quarterback. It's all come together and you're seeing the end result of all the pieces, that all the GMs are trying to get to."
Of course, not everyone's enamored with their tactics, as they've come under fire for running up scores, particularly against Washington and Buffalo lately.
"I don't have a problem with it," said former Pats tight end Christian Fauria. "It's not like they have their first string in there the whole time, it's just a high-powered offense. It's just amazing to watch, fun to watch. And if you can't stop it, you have no one but yourself to blame.
"I've never seen anything like it. You ask anyone, anywhere. It's like me going to play against my son's Pop Warner team. Just throw it wherever you want to and I'll catch it. How many points we score depends on how long we play."
The prevailing sentiment is that the Patriots are trying to stick it to the rest of the league after being caught trying to videotape the New York Jets defensive signals in the opener. The league fined them and took away a first-round pick, but the Patriots appear to be enjoying running roughshod over the league.
Testaverde nodded when asked if it had become personal with coach Bill Belichick.
"I think aside from what happened early in the year against the Jets, I think it's always personal with Bill," Testaverde said. "You're his opponent, you're his enemy that week, he's going to do what it takes to try to win."
• INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver Steve Smith returned to practice Wednesday after missing last week's game with a shin injury.
Coach John Fox said that concerns over whether Smith could finish the game left him no choice, since he usually just keeps four receivers active.
"I think he was close last week," Fox said. "Going with the numbers of receivers you do, if all of a sudden you go out there and a guy can't go in the course of the game, then you can't go back and say 'Whoops, we want to bring this guy up now.'
"I think he did what he thought was best for the team, and thankfully we got him back this week."
Cornerback Chris Gamble missed practice after having surgery on his right thumb Tuesday morning. Fox said there was a chance Gamble could play with a large cast on his right hand, similar to the way safety Colin Branch did here in 2004.
Of course, the highlight of that stint was Branch using his cast to club a ball out of bounds in Seattle, helping cost the Panthers a game.
Also held out of practice were running back DeShaun Foster (toe) and defensive tackle Damione Lewis (shoulder).
• REALITY CHECK: Smith was asked whether the announcement that Testaverde would start would bring some continuity the team needs. His reply was that 2008 was probably the first chance for that.
"I don't know if you could say stability just because of all the things going on," Smith said. "I guess the guy who brings us stability is Jake, honest to God."
• THE NEW OLD GUYS: Speaking of Testaverde and Fauria, their touchdown connection last week in Green Bay made them the oldest pair of players to hook up for a score in league history. They had 80 years and change combined, with Testaverde 44 and Fauria 36.
They broke the record set by Testaverde and New England's Troy Brown last year in Tennessee. Brown's nearly three months older than Fauria, but the year that's passed puts the current Panthers pair in the lead.
Fauria laughed when asked about the distinction.
"Funny thing about that," he said. "My cousin's at the game. He says, 'You know what, that might be the oldest combination.' I said, 'You know, he threw one to Troy Brown last year, so I don't think that's the case.'
"Then I'm like, 'Wait a second, he was younger last year, Troy was younger, I think I'm the same age as Troy.' So yeah. Is that good or is that bad?"
• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers brought defensive end Otis Grigsby back into the fold, signing him to the practice squad.
They released him from the active roster last week to make room for defensive tackle Gary Gibson, since they needed someone to replace Lewis for the week. ... There will be a familiar face in the press box and voice on the airwaves this weekend, as former play-by-play announcer Bill Rosinski calls the game for Westwood One. He's done a handful of national broadcasts in Charlotte with partner Dan Reeves since the Panthers replaced him with Mick Mixon after the 2004 season.