CHARLOTTE -- They didn't know he was going to be there, but they were trying to do what small part they could.
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson returned to his open-air luxury suite Sunday, less than a week after learning he'd need a new heart. Richardson was placed on the heart transplant waiting list Tuesday, but left the hospital and was back in his seat for Sunday's 30-10 win over Denver.
He made a low-key entrance to Bank of America Stadium, as his players didn't know he was present until they showed his image on the scoreboard video screens early in the game. Patients on the waiting list are often allowed to rest at home, though Richardson is going to stay close. He hasn't traveled to any of the last three road games, but last week's win over Tampa was the first home game he's missed since 2002 (when he had quadruple bypass surgery).
"They said he stayed up the whole time, watched the whole game (Monday), was very pleased," safety Chris Harris said.
Quarterback Jake Delhomme said he visited with Richardson on Friday, and said he got the impression he was going to try to be at the game Sunday. But no one knew for sure until the game was in progress.
"I'm glad to see he was able to make it today," Delhomme said "I think the best medicine for him right now is us winning. I don't think there's any doubt."
Coach John Fox relayed a message to the team from the owner, after asking what they could do for him.
"He said we were doing it," defensive end Julius Peppers said. "He meant keep winning games. That's what we want to do for him is continue to win and try to bring him something special."
INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers' remarkable run of health hit a bit of a speed bump Sunday, as they finished the game without a pair of starting linemen.
Defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu left the game with a right ankle sprain and didn't return, and right guard Keydrick Vincent suffered a groin strain and wasn't able to return, replaced by Jeremy Bridges.
Fox didn't elaborate on either situation.
Kemoeatu came out in the third quarter, and after trainers retaped his ankle, he tried to return. But he hobbled off the field after a missed field goal attempt and didn't get off the bench after that.
The Panthers would have a hard time replacing the massive nose tackle. They have no other reserves close to his size, and they'd likely have to start Gary Gibson if he can't go next week. They finished the game with end Tyler Brayton inside.
Also, running back DeAngelo Williams missed some time after being "shaken up." Coached well, he wouldn't say what was wrong with him, other than he was "a little fuzzy." He even laughed with reporters and said: "Don't put me on the spot."
ON HIS OWN: Williams' last run before leaving for a break was his 56-yard touchdown, a run he had to improvise.
Williams started left, but seeing nothing, put his hand on fullback Brad Hoover's back for balance and reversed field, speeding down the middle of the field. He said he hesitates to cut back, hoping to maintain "the integrity of the play."
"They kind of overpursued," Williams said. "I didn't know I was going to break it. I was just looking for a little daylight. I got jammed up a little bit, reversed field and I saw a big opening and I took it."
Delhomme joked that he tried to get a block in, but Williams was gone quick enough he wouldn't have offered much assistance.
"It was a great run because they had it stopped to the left," Delhomme said. "He started to cut back and I took off running, thinking maybe I got in his way. Then he took a left turn and I hollered. It was a good move, keep going. It was a great job by him.
"The way he's finishing I think is huge. He's been doing it since August. It's a process. He's learning how to practice. When he runs in practice, he finishes. He goes to the end zone and I think he's very strong on those runs when he breaks through. It's a credit to him."
HOME SWEET HOME: The Panthers finished the regular season undefeated at home for the first time since 1996. Not bad considering they were 24-24 in Charlotte over the previous six seasons under Fox. They have more business to take care of, but they're in line for more home games in the playoffs, and can clinch home field throughout the NFC playoffs by winning their next two games -- at the N.Y. Giants and New Orleans.
"I think it's great," Fox said of the clean slate at home. "It's something that we addressed in the offseason. We have a unique bunch. It was something they put on their list of goals and we were able to accomplish it. I think it was done one other time here by this organization. It's not very easy to do anywhere, and so those guys ought to be commended."
EXTRA POINTS: It appears the Panthers have now settled on Dwayne Jarrett as the third wideout, for what that's worth. D.J. Hackett was again inactive, the sixth time this year and the third when he's healthy.
This ought to mean that Hackett's time with the Panthers is nearly up. He was signed to a two-year, $3.5 million contract, with a $750,000 signing bonus. He would cost the team a palatable $375,000 in dead money under next year's cap if they cut him.
They also deactivated defensive tackle Darwin Walker, giving them just six defensive linemen up for the game. With the extra spot, they activated cornerback C.J. Wilson, who they consider an emerging prospect. That gave them an extra hand to play against Denver's multiple-receiver sets, since they really don't want to use corner-in-name-only Dante Wesley on defense.
In addition to Hackett and Walker, they also deactivated wide receiver Kenny Moore, offensive linemen Frank Omiyale and Mackenzy Bernardeau, defensive end Hilee Taylor, linebacker Adam Seward and third quarterback Matt Moore.
Of course, the decision on which third receiver to activate is largely overblown, since neither has done much.
Since the end of Steve Smith's two-game suspension, Jarrett and Hackett have combined for just 12 catches for 138 yards and no touchdowns in 11 games when one or the other has been active. Jarrett was thrown at once, but didn't catch a pass.