Panther Player Notes

Rodney Peete said he's happy that Donovan McNabb has turned in a successful season after enduring so much criticism early in the year, especially after Rush Limbaugh's comments. "The way he handled the situation and handled it professionally is a credit to him," Peete said. "I really respect him, because he could have gone the other way and really lashed back out at Rush Limbaugh, but he didn't do that. He allowed the rest of us to do that for him, which was a good thing."

--Head coach John Fox has been thrilled with offensive coordinator Dan Henning, who seems to have Carolina's offense running on all cylinders entering Sunday's NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Dan has got a lot of skins on the walls," Fox said. "He has got Super Bowl rings. He has accomplished a lot with a lot of different players in this league. That is a big reason why I hired him here. He has done a fantastic job.

"He had a few more weapons this time around. I think people are seeing how good he is."

When asked if Henning told Fox he needed more weapons when he was hired, Fox laughed and said, "He didn't have to tell me that. I kind of expected that.

"We had who we had. In coaching, you do the very best you possibly can, whether it is by injury or by whatever personnel you have. I just see us continuing to improve as time goes on."

After a 7-9 season last year, the Panthers added quarterback Jake Delhomme, running back Stephen Davis and wide receiver Ricky Proehl via free agency and selected offensive tackle Jordan Gross with their first pick in the NFL draft. Three of the four start, while Proehl is a valuable reserve.

--Fox doesn't believe the cold weather will be a factor in Sunday's game. According to weather.com, the temperature in Philadelphia on Sunday is expected to be a high of 37 degrees and a low of 19.

"The one thing I found out a long time ago is all of these players come from all different spots," Fox said. "The cold is going to be just like the heat. We have been in some pretty diverse conditions."

The Panthers have not played in a game that has been lower than 43 degrees at the start of kickoff.

"We may not have played in anything less than 43 degrees but we sure as heck have practiced in less than 43," Fox said. "Our guys have been exposed to it. They are going to be exposed to it. I really don't think it has that big of a bearing on anything."

--Asked what he misses most about Philadelphia, quarterback Rodney Peete responded "the cheese steaks."

"That's something you hear about before you go to Philly, and you kind of think that a cheese steak is cheese steak. But it's definitely something different when you get them in Philly," said Peete, who played for the Eagles from 1995-98, starting 24 games during that span.

--Peete said he's happy that Donovan McNabb has turned in a successful season after enduring so much criticism early in the year, especially after Rush Limbaugh's comments.

"The way he handled the situation and handled it professionally is a credit to him," Peete said. "I really respect him, because he could have gone the other way and really lashed back out at Rush Limbaugh, but he didn't do that. He allowed the rest of us to do that for him, which was a good thing."

--Panthers guard Kevin Donnalley said he's anxious to play in a Super Bowl after failing to get there in his first 12 seasons. "You don't get too many opportunities like this," Donnalley said. "I was with the (Houston) Oilers early in my career and we went to the playoffs every year. It was like, 'This is the year. This is the year.' And then I went to the Miami Dolphins with Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson and thought, 'OK, now I'm going to get a ring.' But it's been 13 years.

"But I like our chances this year. Philly is going to be tough and they're playing at home."

--Despite being one of four teams left in the NFL playoffs, the Panthers seemed to be perceived as an afterthought with the other three teams -- Philadelphia, Indianapolis and New England getting the spotlight.

"It is like any reputation," Fox said. "It takes awhile to develop, and we haven't been there in a long time. The other teams have. In my opinion, it just as easy could be our time.

"Once you get there and you have accomplished that and you can do it consistently, then there are new names in there. We are just trying to get there."

--Although the scrutiny of the Panthers has been turned up a notch now that they've reached the NFC Championship game, Fox hasn't lost his sense of humor.

When asked if the team has taken on his personality, Fox replied, "Everybody has a personality, and I am just me. I am not smart enough to be anybody else."

BY THE NUMBERS: 321.3 -- Average yards per game by Carolina in the regular season. 432.5 -- Average yards per game by Carolina in its two postseason games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's definitely a top 10 guy in this league. To be in the top 10, you have to do it over a period of time. He's just really getting started but I can definitely see him creeping into the top 10 because of the speed and talent that he possesses." -- Eagles SS Brian Dawkins on Carolina WR Steve Smith.


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