Delhomme back in action

Quarterback Jake Delhomme is back running the Panthers offense. Delhomme, who missed 13 games in 2007 with ligament damage in his right elbow that required surgery, was back in the huddle working with the first team this week at summer school.

"It feels great. It's a start, a step in the right direction," Delhomme said. "I think mentally I felt a little rusty, but that's to be expected. But it was good to be out there in the huddle and actually competing again."

Delhomme threw passes in individual drills at the team's rookie minicamp, but did not participate in team drills at the advice of team doctors and trainers. But now he has been given a clean bill of health.

Delhomme said the elbow feels great and he has full confidence in it.

"In talking to (team physician) Dr. (Patrick) Connor, he told me, 'Listen, your elbow is stronger than it has been in years,' so that was always good to hear," Delhomme said. "If he tells you that then I'm not too worried about a hit or not. I don't think I will be thinking about that." Delhomme is throwing about 40 passes a day in summer school.

"It's always great to have your starting quarterback back out there," coach John Fox said. "He's not only your starting quarterback but he's the leader of the offense and to have him back out there, with his enthusiasm and everything, it's a joy to watch."

For Delhomme, just the idea of practicing without pain is a joy. That's something that he hasn't been able to do over the past few years. The elbow has been a nagging distraction for him since about 2003, although he never had surgery to fix the problem.

"Warming up and feeling good, that's what is refreshing for me," Delhomme said. "It felt good. I'm excited to come out. I do enjoy practice. I love it. I always have. But it got to be kind of a grind the last few years (because of the pain). At times it was like, 'OK, let's try to get through it.' And that was not healthy."

Delhomme, who turned 33 in January, believes that missing most of last season may actually prove beneficial for the longevity of his career.

"I think mentally I feel good, the body feels good," said Delhomme, who enters his sixth season as Carolina's starting quarterback. "I have had a long time to heal and I haven't been hit in a long time. So I think it works in my favor. I saw (former Panther) Kevin Donnalley the other day in the neighborhood and he tore an ACL in 2001 or something like that, and he said without a doubt that added a few years for him. Just mentally that helped him recover."

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