Delhomme misses third straight practice Friday

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme walked off the field after missing his third straight day of practice Friday, stopped in front of a group of reporters, and answered the question before it was asked.

"I don't know," Delhomme said of whether he'll play Sunday against Tampa Bay. "I'm holding out hope. A couple of years ago I broke my thumb and I didn't take a snap until Saturday morning.

"I'm feeling better. I'm gripping the ball and it feels pretty good. We're just trying to rest it right now."

Delhomme, who said he hasn't tried to throw since being injured in the third quarter of Carolina's win Sunday over Atlanta, was listed as doubtful on the team's injury report Friday.

But coach John Fox wouldn't name backup David Carr the starter, and Delhomme said he may wait until game time to decide.

"I'll probably be the only one to be able tell, because naturally I'm the one who knows what I'm feeling or not feeling," Delhomme said. "I would assume once I throw I'll have a pretty good idea."

Delhomme is off to a good start. He's completed 64 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and just one interception. His passer rating of 111.9 is tied for third in the NFL.

Carr, a five-year starter in Houston, was signed in the offseason as an upgrade over last year's backup, Chris Weinke. Carr, who replaced Delhomme late in the third quarter against the Falcons, completed three of four passes for 56 yards in two run-dominated scoring drives in Carolina's win.

"Different players, different coordinator and a different coaching staff, but I kind of felt at home, to tell you the truth," Carr said earlier this week. "It was fun."

Delhomme's status is not the only injury concern for Carolina heading into Sunday's game, which will determine first place in the NFC South.

Middle linebacker Dan Morgan will not play after suffering an ankle injury against the Falcons. His backup, Adam Seward, returned to practice Friday for the first time in a week following a calf injury and is listed as questionable.

James Anderson moved from outside linebacker into Morgan's spot when he went out in the third quarter against Atlanta, and could start there Sunday.

The news is better for right guard Jeremy Bridges, who practiced Friday for the first time this week after being sidelined with a toe injury. He's listed as probable.

Bridges returned last week after a two-game suspension for his arrest on a misdemeanor assault charge, and the offensive line consistently opened up holes for the running game. DeShaun Foster had 122 of the Panthers' 175 yards rushing.

With the uncertainty at quarterback, getting the running game going early could be important for Carolina on Sunday.

"We're going to try to keep it up, keep the game close," Foster said. "We want to be able to run the ball and play time of possession."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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