Inside slant: Carolina Panthers

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Jake Delhomme said he's still hoping to avoid surgery on his strained right elbow.

Delhomme isn't feeling any pain, but added that's probably because he hasn't attempted to throw a football since straining his elbow a week ago Sunday in a 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons. He's waiting for the go-ahead from trainer Ryan Vermillion to begin throwing and even expressed some outside optimism he might get that chance later this week.

"Usually when somebody has an injury or a strain or something, it kind of hurts," Delhomme said. "I feel pretty good. Now, I'm not in the act of throwing the ball. And I'm not talking about soft tossing with somebody. You've got to throw in this game, and you throw from all different angles. I'm anxious to start chucking it around a little bit."

In all likelihood, David Carr will get the start again.

But the Panthers haven't brought in any free-agent quarterbacks at this point -- which is a good sign -- and Delhomme still hasn't ruled out playing this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

"I hope so," Delhomme said of playing in the Superdome, one of his favorite venues. "See those tapes (of the Saints) sitting in my locker? They're going to be looked at. We'll see."

Of course if the rehab doesn't go well, then surgery remains an option -- either later this season or in the offseason.

But Delhomme called it a "last resort."

If he opts for surgery, it would definitely mean the end of his season, he said.

That would be a tough one for the Panthers to swallow. Delhomme is off to one of the best starts of his career. He owns the league's third-best quarterback rating and is 2-1 as the team's starter.

"I've had a bunch of phone calls saying something about a surgery," Delhomme said. "Maybe that could happen down the line. I don't know, and that's the God's honest truth. We don't know yet. To say it's a possibility, yes it's possible. But it's not in my mind right now. That's where we're at."

Delhomme refused to discuss what elbow surgery would entail.


— Panthers middle linebacker Dan Morgan said Monday he's been diagnosed with a partially torn Achilles tendon, but that the injury is not season ending. The team originally said Morgan had tendinitis in his ankle.

Morgan did not play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

"I didn't break anything," Morgan said. "It's the Achilles' tendon. I messed it up a little bit. I didn't tear it all the way, but I tore it a little bit."

Morgan said he's expected to have the cast off his leg later this week. But it could be awhile before he returns to the field.

— On Monday, John Fox dismissed defensive tackle Kris Jenkins' comments about the team lacking heart and desire by saying, "I think after the way we performed, there is frustration and that is what those comments are based on. I don't know if it was as much a lack of effort as it was a lack of execution."

Fox said Jenkins' comments were "understandable" and that he doesn't have a gag order on players.

After Sunday's game, Jenkins ripped the team's lack of heart following a 20-7 loss to Tampa Bay.

"I think the players owe the fans an apology. I would be as upset as they are if I had to sit in the stands for four hours and look at that garbage," Fox said. "I'm going to be honest with you. That's what it was, garbage. ... This is our issue as a team. As a team collectively, we have no heart. We have no energy. We have no drive. Football is about pride and passion. I'm going to repeat that again. Football is about pride and passion. The pride and the passion that you have for this game makes you want to win. It's not about the money. It's not about looking the part. It's not about standing on the field so everybody can see you on TV and that you look good. It's about pride and heart. If you have those two, if you win or lose, you're going to look like a football team.

"That's why we have issues with prosperity. That's why we have issues when things look good. That's why we can't get enough together to look and act like a football team. This is not a 9-to-5 job. This is a game. It is a street fight. It is a gladiator sport and I apologize that sometimes I don't look the part for what people want me to be. I'm not the weight that everybody wants me to be. But when I step on that field, what you are going to see is pride and heart because I value this game. I love it and that is what is frustrating me. We don't have that. We went out there and I felt embarrassed. I walked out the little line or whatever you come through to go play and I walked out and basically, in a certain way, I challenged their team. And I challenged my team, because when you step out there like that and you do something like that, you better back it up and we didn't. We got broke off. We really got broke off and I'm embarrassed to say so."


RB DeAngelo Williams returned kickoffs in the second half after Nick Goings left the game with a concussion. Williams returned his only kickoff 29 yards. Goings averaged 17.7 yards per kickoff return. It's possible Williams could return kickoffs again this week.

WR Steve Smith has just six catches for 42 yards in the last two games. He's getting little help from his secondary receivers.

DE Julius Peppers was shut out in the sack department for a fourth straight game and did not make an appearance in the locker room after the game. The Panthers as a team have two sacks in four games and neither is from a defensive end.

WR Dwayne Jarrett got a jersey Sunday for the first time this season and actually saw action on a couple of plays. He caught one pass for six yards, which left him second on the team in receiving yards through the first half. "He did what he had to do," Carr said. "They had a small package for him. Obviously you're not going to give him the world to come in and try to execute."


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Up until the final quarter, Carr was averaging 2.0 yards per pass attempt. He wound up throwing for 155 yards, but 69 of those came on the final drive. He was picked off once and sacked three times and the Panthers failed to get WR Steve Smith (32 yards) involved in the offense -- again. Same old problems as the Panthers need a No. 2 receiver to step up. Foster dropped two passes, and Smith and Drew Carter one. All in all, another abysmal effort on offense.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- The Panthers managed 99 yards on 23 carries with DeShaun Foster carrying 15 times for 64 yards. However, he fumbled twice and turned the ball over once. David Carr accounted for most of Carolina's other yards on the ground, recording 28 yards on five scrambles.

PASS DEFENSE: D-minus -- Jeff Garcia didn't put up great numbers (15 of 25 for 176 yards), but he set the tone for the game on the first two drives, simply dissecting Carolina's terrible pass defense. You had the feeling Garcia could have thrown the ball around the yard all day if this had been a competitive game.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Panthers allowed the Bucs to run for 189 yards on 42 carries or 4.5 yards per carry. Even after starter Carnell Williams left the game in the first quarter, the Panthers still couldn't stop the Bucs. Michael Pittman led the way with 90 yards on 15 carries. Earnest Graham had 48 yards on 17 carries. Both of Tampa's touchdowns came on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Well, at least the Panthers finally had DeAngelo Williams back returning kickoffs -- although it took a concussion to Nick Goings for that to happen. Williams had 29 yards on his lone return, while Goings averaged 17.7 on three returns. Jason Baker had two nice punts and two not-so-good punts in a busy day.

COACHING: F -- How is it you have all week to prepare for Garcia and you still come out and allow him to drive up and down the field for two scores? Unlike the Panthers, the Bucs were actually able to hold on to a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson needs to find ways to get Smith into the offense. Of course, Smith needs to stop dropping balls, too. And why can't this team win at home? Another case of Carolina's home-field disadvantage for the Panthers, who have been outscored 118-44 in their last four home games.

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