Carolina Panthers

Backup QB McCown there if needed

Carolina Panthers running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams celebrate Stewart's touchdown run during the second quarter against Minnesota.
Carolina Panthers running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams celebrate Stewart's touchdown run during the second quarter against Minnesota.

CHARLOTTE -- Nothing personal, but the Panthers hope they won't ever need Josh McCown.

But he said last week he's at least in a better position to help now. The backup quarterback, acquired in a trade with Miami the week before the opener, said he's a little more at ease with the offense, in case he did have to play.

Granted, that would mean something happened to starter Jake Delhomme, and no one wants that. But McCown said with nearly a month in Charlotte under his belt, he's figuring out what he'd need to do with the help of passing game coordinator Mike McCoy, Delhomme and injured Matt Moore and practice-squader Brett Basanez.

"You know, I feel like I'm getting there," McCown said. "I'm starting to feel a very high comfort level. They've done a good job of helping me along. It hasn't been a hard situation to come into because there's a lot of good people here.

"Shoot, Week 1 I was probably about 85 to 90 percent. Some of the offense is pretty similar. There are some nuances that aren't second nature, things that come from training camp, and all that.

"There's still some things new where, now, it's like 95 percent. It's not that I don't know the stuff, I just haven't had enough reps for them to become habit."

Since Moore's out a few more weeks with a broken left leg, McCown's the only one behind Delhomme on game day. That's a bit of a breath-holder, since McCown's often played a bit fast and loose, but he said the knowledge he's the only replacement has caused him to consider caution.

"It is nerve-wracking, because you're going into a game because someone got hurt, and now you're thinking 'I can't get hurt,'" he said. " But at the same time, it's one of those things where the probability's in the numbers. Does it happen to people, yeah, but there's a ton of teams that carry two.

"I try to stay ready. Obviously, if that was the situation, I don't know if I could pull this off, but I would try to not play as reckless. When you're outside the pocket, I'd probably focus more on keeping myself healthy, sliding, as opposed to running as much as normal."

• INCENTIVE TO WIN: Delhomme was talking about his preferred mode of play last week, when he mentioned something new.

"I mean, honestly, we threw it 41 times in San Diego and we won," he said. "We threw it 20 or something in Chicago and we won. Whatever works. I was joking with DeAngelo (Williams) and we were talking about the touchdown runs and the passes and I said, 'Hey, take a look at my contract, I don't have any incentives. I could care less if I throw a touchdown pass.'

"I'm at the point where you just want to come in here happy after a game."

That means as part of the six-year, $38 million extension he signed in 2004, there were no incentive clauses tied to individual performance, unusual for modern quarterback contracts.

"I didn't need them on this one," Delhomme said with a grin. "In this league, if you win, you have a job.

"The first one I signed (in 2003), I had incentives. The next one was a nice contract. I play this game because I enjoy it. And they pay us a little bit."

• TAKING IT HARD: Penalties were a huge topic last week, reasonable since the Panthers are tied for the league lead with 28. Of that sum, 13 were false starts, but the big ones haunt them still.

Tight end Jeff King's off to a tough start, with a pair of false starts and an illegal block in the back that was crushing, since it took an 87-yard kickoff return by Jonathan Stewart off the board.

That's something he hasn't been able to forgive himself for, though he's trying to keep it from weighing him down.

"That's a return I'd like to forget," King said of the Minnesota mistake. "But it wasn't a sure-fire call in my eyes. It was a little questionable, but it happens. It was a big play in the game and I accept responsibility for it and move on, learn from it and hopefully it won't happen again.

"You beat yourself up over it. I can tell you guys I didn't sleep a whole lot on Sunday night. It happens, it happens every week. There's always one play that you'd like to have back -- some you guys see and some you don't. You've got to learn from it. You can't let it beat you up too much. We have to move on this week."

• PASSING HIM AGAIN: With his next field goal, original Panther John Kasay will tie Norm Johnson for ninth place on the all-time list with 366. It'll be the second time he's bypassed Johnson in the pecking order.

Kasay replaced the veteran kicker in Seattle in 1991, a move that wasn't well-received by his teammates at the time. After all, this was before free agency, and that team had been together through a successful run, and Johnson was a popular member of the team. As then-coach Chuck Knox staged pre-practice kickoffs during training camp, Johnson's longtime friends would gather and boo the rookie.

"It was unbelievable," said Panthers radio announcer Eugene Robinson, then a Seahawks safety. "Norm would kick, and every time something went through, guys were cheering. John would kick, and guys would actually be standing behind him yelling, 'Miss it,' as he was approaching. I couldn't believe it."

Kasay holds no grudges, but talked about the incident prior to the team's trip to Seattle for the 2005 NFC Championship Game.

"When your own teammates are cheering when you miss, ..." Kasay said with a nod. "That's about as hard as it gets."

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