Players' Thoughts on Panther QB Situation

After coach John Fox announced that Jake Delhomme would remain the Panthers' starting quarterback for Sunday's game at Arizona, CSR spoke to several offensive players in the locker room Wednesday afternoon.

This is pretty much a non-story. Delhomme has started every game when he's been healthy since he became the regular starter early in the 2003 season.

So Delhomme's teammates reacted as you would expect. They praised the move. They gave bland answers to reporters' questions, saying one of three things: They still supported Delhomme because he produced before, they are not too concerned because it's not their job to decide who plays quarterback, and teammates need to play better too. None of them stood out and advocated for a switch to backup Matt Moore, not even Moore himself.

It's always tough to gauge how the players really feel about a sensitive topic like this. Pro athletes rarely open up when outsiders are shoving digital recorders and cameras in their face.

That said, we can make some inferences from what a few veterans said Wednesday...

--Inference No. 1: Many players are not sold on Delhomme's future. While they spoke in favor of playing Delhomme Sunday, none got up and delivered a convincing case for why the Panthers should stick with the NFL's interceptions leader (13 in six games).

 

--Inference No. 2: Star receiver Steve Smith, who has often stood up for Delhomme, may be among those players not too bullish on him right now.

Smith spoke briefly from his locker Wednesday afternoon, as he dressed after practice. He spoke in general terms, saying such gems as "Nobody wants to come to work and be uncertain if you have a job or not" and "My job is to play wide receiver...I can't worry about somebody else." Smith also said he is still comfortable playing with Delhomme.

But when asked for his response to Fox's decision, all Smith said was this: "Jake's the guy. Jake's the guy. It's not my call."

Now, Smith was not suggesting that if it had been his call, he would have went with Moore. But he stopped short of offering a strong endorsement for his teammate of seven seasons.

Here's a roundup of what Delhomme and a few teammates said Wednesday about the quarterback situation:

 

--Delhomme said he was pleased to still be the starter, but he understood why Fox waited until Wednesday to make a decision. "How could I blame him (for switching to Moore)?" Delhomme said. "I haven't played well."

Delhomme feels good, he said. "I'm not frustrated right now. It's a work week and it's back to work...I don't feel heat on the outside. I really don't. I'm like a hermit during the season." If he loses his job, "I'm going out swinging."

He was in disbelief Sunday night, after throwing three interceptions in the home loss to Buffalo, he said. On the first pick, when he overthrew tight end Gary Barnidge, "I pushed it. It wasn't a good throw." The second interception, which he threw high for Smith, was inaccurate because he was trying to get the ball around a Bills linebacker in the way.

The worst part about his start, Delhomme said, is he feels like he is letting his teammates down. "I haven't played well enough for them. That's what hurts the most."

Delhomme was comforted to hear that his teammates were sticking up for him to the reporters, he said. He concluded with a statement about his approach heading into the rematch with Arizona, which intercepted him five times in a playoff loss last season: "Okay. It can't get much worse. Forget about it and go on."

 

--Moore was not at all surprised to learn he's still the backup, he said. Nor is he upset. "It's how I figured it would be."

Moore is ready to step in whenever the coaches ask, he added.

 

--"That's been our thing all along," tight end Jeff King said of playing Delhomme. "The team collectively has to be better around him."

 

--Offensive linemen Travelle Wharton and Jeff Otah also support Delhomme, they said.

"There's really no issue," Wharton said. "Jake's our quarterback."

"Coach (Fox) knows what he's doing," Otah said. "We just go out there and do what we're told."

One way to help Delhomme would be for the Panthers to run the ball more effectively, Otah added.

 

--Running back DeAngelo Williams said Delhomme has shown a lot of character answering questions about his poor play this season. "He's done a great job handling all this negative media he's been getting."

Williams was asked if it was important for Delhomme to play against the team that started his slump (Delhomme has thrown 18 interceptions in his last seven games, including the playoff loss, after tossing only 12 picks in 16 regular season starts last year). Replied Williams: "It's very important for all of us."

 

--And finally, receiver Kenny Moore said Delhomme is the Panthers' best option at quarterback because he knows the offense and has experience. "He's done great things for us," Moore said. "He'll get the job done."

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