The skinny on Vinny

At age 44, Vinny Testaverde is an oldie but goodie. After joining the Panthers in October, the well-traveled veteran became the oldest quarterback ever to win a NFL game and the third-oldest ever to start one. After sitting out last week with back problems, Testaverde's probable to start Sunday vs. the 49ers, and here he talks about his unique situation while covering a variety of topics.

Q: Does it ever get old or do you still have the same enthusiasm for the game?
Testaverde:
Every year I just ask myself three questions: Am I healthy? Am I having fun? If those two things go right, then three, I am going to continue to play.

Q: After training camp, did you think that might be it for your career?
Testaverde:
Truthfully, I thought after training camp and being released from New England, I thought there might be a slight chance I could come back here for the second half of the season. Kind of like I did last year. I was with them for the second half. Obviously, the situation changed when the Panthers called and I had an opportunity where I could play. I just felt like, after training camp and playing in a couple games, that I could still do the things necessary to help teams win games and that's what made the decision for me.

Q: Would you take playing for the Panthers over playing for a Super Bowl ring?
Testaverde:
Yes, I would. I think sitting on the bench, for me, and watching, I wouldn't have felt as part of it as I would if I contributed on the field or helped the guys along. It just means more to me than sitting there and watching other guys do it.

Q: What do you do during the in-between time when you aren't getting picked up?
Testaverde:
I didn't really know what was going to happen. Like I said, I thought there was a fighting chance I would go back to New England. What I was doing everyday was my normal offseason routine where I wake up in the morning, my wife and I get the kids ready for school, one of us takes them to school and then I get home from that and just workout for a couple hours. If the weather is good in New York, I play some golf after that and get the kids after school. Then it's the homework, and who has the extracurricular activities after school, whether it's sports or different clubs they go to. That's really the whole day.

Q: How many kids do you have?
Testaverde:
I have three children. My oldest girl is 16, and I have an 11-year old boy, and a five-year old girl. So we got them spread out pretty good and they keep us on our toes. Instead of man-to-man coverage, it's a zone-coverage where you have to have eyes everywhere. (Laughing)

Q: How long do you think you can keep playing?
Testaverde:
I don't know. The last couple of years, I thought I was going to retire, and then as we got into the year, obviously somebody needed another quarterback, so I went back and played. As long as I'm healthy, I'm having fun and enjoying it, I'm going to continue to do it. I just feel if I can contribute in some way, then I'll do it. So, it's hard for me to answer right now. I'm a little banged up. The back acted up on me last week. So, all those things will come into consideration at the end of the year. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on helping this team win a football game. We've struggled here for the last month, month and a half, and we got to get back on track somehow.

Q: What does it say about the state of the quarterback position right now? Are there not enough young guys coming up to start at the position?
Testaverde:
I really don't have an answer for that. I think probably lack of experience comes into play, or situations like they had here. Jake Delhomme was a starter and David Carr was injured, and so now they were left with a couple young guys. Obviously, they need somebody with experience that knows their system. So, I think that had a lot to do with me coming in here and knowing a lot about their system.

Q: Do you expect to start this weekend?
Testaverde:
Yeah, I think so. I took about half the reps (Wednesday). I think Coach Fox named me the starter earlier in the week. As long as I was feeling good and healthy, I would start on Sunday. So, I'm not anticipating any setbacks. I am anticipating being a little sore, but working through that as the week continues on.

Q: What is the problem with the back?
Testaverde:
It locked up on me on Saturday in the early morning – little back spasms and that kind of thing. I'm feeling much better the last day and a half.

Q: Do you believe that type of back injury can happen at any age?
Testaverde:
It happened to me when I was a lot younger, so I would say yes. I'm sure it has a little bit to do with the age. But also too, I had an Achilles problem for the last month and a half – a little tendinitis – and I was just trying to compensate by walking different, I had a walking boot and was walking on the side of my foot, and I think that kind of led to the back problem. I know that has happened to me before when you try and compensate for something and it kind of throws your back out of whack."

Q: How many NFL systems are out there where you can just go right into tomorrow and play in?
Testaverde:
Well, I don't know how many there are out there to be honest with you. It's similar to the Patriots, but it's similar to what I had in New York (with the Jets) with Parcells and Dan Henning, who was the coach there as well as he is here the last few years. So, Dan brought that system over from New York to here with him. There is a lot of the same terminology and same verbiage. That's why it was a lot easier for me to pick up. It was just a matter of recalling all of that, which I felt I did pretty quickly.

Q: As far as the fans calling for rookie QB Matt Moore to play last week, did you hear that and do you think he is ready?
Testaverde:
I did hear some of the fans chanting his name. It's unfortunate for David (Carr) because I hate to see players go through that because it seemed like it was made out to be David's fault, but it wasn't. You look at the film and there were a lot of mistakes we made as a team in every phase of the game. I'm sure David had his mistakes. Sometimes it's unfair, but that is what it was on Sunday. Is Matt ready? I think he's an up-and-coming young quarterback with a lot of ability and a lot of potential. I think if he continues to work hard and stays on the path he is on right now, he's going to be pretty successful in this league.

Q: What do you see in the 49ers defense?
Testaverde:
I see a lot of confusion for the offense. They do so many things. They jump into using the same personnel in a four-down linemen look to a three-linemen look. They're bringing safeties down, they're brining corner blitzes, they're bringing linebackers over on one side of the ball. It's a lot of different things you have to prepare for. It makes you focus in on what you're doing and work smart and try and focus in on the things that are necessary for us to be successful with.

Q: Is there a key guy to this 49ers defense or who do you take note of?
Testaverde:
Well, you try and see where people are, but at the same time, you're trying to look at the defense as a whole to figure out what they're trying to do on that particular snap. We have to set our game plan accordingly to where they can't push us to make too many mistakes. It's going to be one of those games where we have to be careful with what we do and making sure when they line up that we make the right calls because if we make the wrong call, we can let a guy come free pretty quickly.

Q: What are your thoughts of 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis?
Testaverde:
Yeah, he reminds me a lot of our young linebacker John Beason. He's just a guy that can get all over the field and just create some havoc. When you have guys like that who are willing to come in and play with that attitude, it makes it tough on that offense because guys seem to rally around those types of guys. I remember a young guy I was with in Baltimore named Ray Lewis. Guys just got fired up and it created some long days for opposing offenses.

Q: Any reaction to being tackled by a guy who wasn't even born when you came into this league?
Testaverde:
Well, you step on the field, it doesn't matter how young or old you are, it's about helping your team win football games. That is what I told the guys here. You're expected to go out and play well. Once you step on the field, you're not looked at as a rookie or an old guy who is going to retire one of these days shortly, so it's about going out and producing. I kind of get a chuckle out of that. Hopefully, he'll have a little respect for me and won't bring it too hard.

Q: What does your wife think of you continuing to play?
Testaverde:
She thinks it's great. She supports me 100 percent. She tells me if I'm feeling good and I want to do it, go ahead. My kids are the same way. It's a lot easier to go to work every day knowing that.

Q: How important is the Hall of Fame to you and what do you think your chances are?
Testaverde:
My chances are probably slim to none. I don't really think about that much. Whatever people view it as, I'm sure it's going to happen that way. If it does happen one day, that'd be great. There would probably be no better feeling than that. I don't play for that. I play because I enjoy it and I love the competition. That is why I keep coming back. I just enjoy playing football, being a football player, coming out and competing and going through the process everyday of preparing, and I enjoy being out at practice and around the guys. I guess because the last few years I was on the verge of retiring, I kind of got a better sense of appreciation for the game and a better understanding. I should say a better sense of appreciation for the daily things I go through, like the practices, the meetings and those types of things. Like I said, I'm going to do it for as long as I can, as long as I'm healthy and as long as I'm having fun.

Q: How well do you know Trent Dilfer and how do you think he's been playing?
Testaverde:
I know Trent fairly well. We lived down in Tampa, Florida, for awhile. After I left, he came in and he was the quarterback there. We played a little bit of golf together. By the way, he's an outstanding golfer. He's just a very good guy. He's a very likeable guy and I've always gotten along with him from a personal standpoint. From a professional standpoint, I think he's a heck of a quarterback. A guy that was down in Tampa and went through some rough times, as many of us quarterbacks did down there, but was able to win a Super Bowl with the Ravens. So, he bounced back from that and my hats off to him because not a lot of guys can go through what he's gone through and what I've gone through down there and be mentally strong enough to overcome that and still have a successful career as he has had.


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