Carolina Panthers

Rivalry not what it used to be

CHARLOTTE -- It hasn't been that long ago that a Carolina-Jacksonville game had as much heat as one against the Falcons, Saints or Bucs.

Those days are gone, as there are only a few who remember why it mattered.

Expansion brethren in 1995, the Panthers and Jaguars used to play each other in games full of passion that outstripped the meaning of the game. The Panthers won the Hall of Fame game in 1995 in the first game for each of them, but lost the first regular-season meeting in 1996, the year both went to their respective conference championship games.

The series has borne the highs (Jake Delhomme triggering the 2003 Super Bowl run in the opener), and the lows (Carolina players complaining about too-aggressive Jaguars schemes in the preseason).

This will be just the fourth regular-season meeting between the teams, with the Jags holding a 2-1 edge with their 1999 win.

The Jags hold the historical edge, with a 110-94 (.539) franchise record, compared to the Panthers' 95-109 mark (.466). Of course, the difference is the Jags stuck with original coach Tom Coughlin, while the Panthers endured the George Seifert years, which saw a 16-32 mark.

Throw out Seifert's folly, and the Panthers are a more respectable 79-77 under Dom Capers and John Fox (.506).

• WHO'S NEXT: The results of wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett's MRI were apparently good enough, since the Panthers didn't immediately shut him down for the next four weeks. He won't play today, but they're holding out hope his MCL sprain in his right knee won't cost him the rest of the year.

If they did put him on injured reserve, there's a better-than-average chance his spot would be taken by practice squad receiver Jason Carter.

Carter's a player they're quietly excited about, much the way they felt about 2006 practice squader Taye Biddle a year ago.

But while Biddle was merely a speed guy who they feared wouldn't hold up, Carter's more of a football player.

A former quarterback at Texas A&M, Carter's spent the year on the practice squad after being cut by Minnesota after training camp. He stuck with the Vikings a year ago, appearing in one game. He's big enough (6-feet, 205 pounds), has exceptional quickness, and might have the third-best arm on the roster.

Keep an eye on him, because even if he doesn't get a late call-up, expect him to be signed for 2008 quickly after the season.

• PCL A MYSTERY: The news that Saints running back Reggie Bush has a torn posterior cruciate ligament carries much more weight, but the Panthers know about the odd nature of the injury because of what they've gone through this year with safety Nate Salley.

Bush has been ruled out for today, but there's no definitive word as to whether he will be able to play the rest of the year or whether he'd need surgery.

That uncertainty -- not the injury -- probably makes Salley laugh, since he's been "day-to-day" since landing awkwardly on his right knee Aug. 1. He thought he'd miss a week or so, but the pain never subsided. They tried to wait for him, but weeks of rehab and two attempted comebacks didn't help, and the reality is fixing the torn ligament will help.

He said recently he still hasn't had surgery, and doesn't know if he will.

"The PCL's not going to be right, regardless," Salley said.

The hope is that by strengthening the muscles around the area, he can provide the stability with which the ligament helps. Salley's hoping he just has some meniscus damage, but there's also a fear he might need microfracture surgery, which would cost him another year.

"We've still got time," Salley said. "But it's been wild waiting."

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