NFC South Hot Topic: Nov. 23

Hot Topic is your source for NFC South news at Today get updated on what's going on in Carolina and New Orleans. Due to the Thursday night game, Atlanta does not have a Hot Topic entry this morning.


In three starts, quarterback David Carr has suffered two concussions and a compression fracture in his back. He hasn't enjoyed the protection he thought he would when he escaped the Houston Texans -- he has been sacked 12 times, which is more than Carolina's other three quarterbacks combined -- and now he has been benched indefinitely for 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde.

Obviously things haven't gone as well as Carr planned them to.

And his first season -- and perhaps last -- with the Panthers isn't over yet.

"This whole year has been a little crazy, to tell you the truth," Carr said. "A little different than I had expected. At the same time, if my number is called I'll go out there and have fun, try to do what I can to give the team a spark and try to win a football game. I support whatever (coach John Fox) decides."

So what did he expect?

"To tell you the truth, I don't know," Carr said.

Carr isn't into analyzing why Testaverde, whom the Panthers signed off the street last month after Carr injured his back, is playing instead of him.

"If I tried to think about that all night, I'd drive myself crazy," Carr said. "I wouldn't be too much fun on Thanksgiving."

He believes injuries have had something to do with it, saying just this week he's finally "pretty close" to 100 percent.

When Carr has played, he has looked more than a little skittish in the pocket, especially since suffering the back injury.

That seemed to be the case in his last start against Tennessee Nov. 4 in which he was sacked seven times, prompting Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth to say after the game that Carr looked scared. Fox admitted on Wednesday that Carr wouldn't have started that game had Testaverde not been bothered by tendonitis in his Achilles.

"You want to be out there. You want to play and give your team a chance to win. It's his decision. I can't do anything about it," Carr said.

The numbers suggest Fox is doing the right thing.

Although both Carr and Testaverde have three touchdowns and three interceptions this season, it's pretty clear that Testaverde has been more effective at moving the ball and scoring points.

In 14 quarters as quarterback, Testaverde has led the Panthers to 62 points. Carolina has scored just 21 points in 13 quarters under Carr.


--RB DeShaun Foster was back at practice on Thursday and is expected to play this week.

--WR Drew Carter has a chance to start this week after a strong game last week.

--CB Chris Gamble did not practice due to a thumb injury.

--DT Damione Lewis returned to practice and is expected to play Sunday.

--WR Steve Smith has been a Saints killer in the past with six TDs in his last five games against them. He practiced on Thursday and is good to go on Sunday against one of the league's worst pass defenses.


With six games remaining in the regular season, things are getting stickier for the Saints as they attempt to make the playoffs after an 0-4 start.

Back-to-back losses have left the Saints (4-6) in a precarious position going into Sunday's game at Carolina. But with three straight games against NFC South foes coming up, all is not lost yet -- although their margin for error has shrunk considerably.

"We have six games left and we are two out, so I can't think of being in a more urgent position," coach Sean Payton said. "This is it and we are hitting a stretch now where we are going to play three division opponents in a row."

Payton noted that the Panthers (4-6) are going to be playing with the same sense of urgency. But the thing that's first and foremost on his mind is his own team's play, mainly because it's getting late.

"It's not like you can say we have 12 games left and we have a lot of football to play," he said. "We have six games left and if we're going to do anything, it's time. We're at a stretch now where we don't have any wiggle room.

"What's important to me and what's important to our team is to play like we were when we were winning," Payton added. "We're stuck at 4-6 right now, and that's where we're at. We're going to have to play awfully well the rest of the way to get back in this thing."

After visiting Carolina, the Saints play host to division-leading Tampa Bay (6-4) Buccaneers and go to Atlanta (3-7).

"We really have no room for error," quarterback Drew Brees said. "We have six one-game seasons from here on out, with each game as important as the other. We are coming into a stretch with three divisional opponents in a row, and if we have a chance to get back into this thing it is right now."


--RB Reggie Bush was limited for the second straight day because of a bruised left shin, but coach Sean Payton said his work on Thursday increased from the previous day.

--LT Jammal Brown practiced for the second straight day Thursday after missing last week's game at Houston with a strained left calf and should be ready for Sunday's game at Carolina.

--LDE Charles Grant worked once again Thursday and will return to the starting lineup on Sunday after missing the last two games with a sprained right ankle.

--DT Brian Young will be sidelined for a fourth straight game Sunday. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Nov. 7 and the Saints hope he will be able to return for next week's game against Tampa Bay.

--CB Usama Young will likely return Sunday after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.

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