Panthers sign 43-year-old Testaverde to one-year deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Vinny Testaverde isn't finished yet - even at age 43.

The Carolina Panthers, desperate for a quarterback with Jake Delhomme out for the season and David Carr banged up, signed Testaverde to a one-year deal Wednesday.

Testaverde, the No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in the 1987 draft, practiced in his familiar No. 16 jersey Wednesday, while hearing his teammates call him "Dad" as he came up to the line of scrimmage.

"I haven't told them yet, but I have probably forgot more football than these guys already know," Testaverde said with a grin. "We'll have some fun with that."

Joining his sixth franchise, Testaverde has played in 226 games with 208 starts. He was cut by New England before the start of the season.

"We decided he was our best option," general manager Marty Hurney said. "He brings experience. He throws the ball extremely well. He's a fierce competitor. It seems like he'll be an extremely good fit for us."

Testaverde will provide insurance behind Carr, who became the Panthers' No. 1 QB on Monday when the team announced Delhomme would have season-ending elbow surgery.

But Testaverde could be a candidate to start Sunday's game at Arizona. Carr, who suffered a back injury in Carolina's win over New Orleans, missed practice Wednesday.

Walking gingerly, Carr was unsure when he'll be able to return.

"I felt like my grandpa Monday. I felt like my dad today. Hopefully I'll feel like my 7-year-old son by Sunday," Carr said.

Matt Moore, an undrafted rookie who played briefly Sunday when Carr was being treated, is the other quarterback on the roster. But Moore's inexperience and the fact he was signed only last month after being cut by Dallas, could make Testaverde the better option Sunday.

Coach John Fox said he believed Testaverde could be ready to start, if needed.

"Both mentally and physically," Fox said. "He's a guy we were fortunate enough to find at this point in the season."

Testaverde, who won the Heisman Trophy at Miami the same year Panthers rookie receiver Dwayne Jarrett was born, said he thinks he could know enough of the offense to start against the Cardinals.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, a former New England assistant who is four years younger than Testaverde, has put in a system similar to the Patriots' offense. Testaverde spent last season with the Patriots.

"I know the system they run here," Testaverde said. "For someone with my experience it is easier than say a younger player coming in and trying to learn the system."

Delhomme was officially placed on injured reserve Wednesday to make room for Testaverde, who flew into town early Wednesday and passed a physical.

Hurney said he has no concerns with Testaverde's age. He'll turn 44 next month.

"If you watched him in preseason, he threw the ball extremely well," Hurney said. "He played in two preseason games - one was against us - and he still showed the ability to compete in this league.

"He's a guy who takes extremely good care of himself."

The available pool of quarterbacks was thin, and the Panthers were in competition with their opponent on Sunday. Testaverde said the Cardinals called him, but he didn't want to move far away from his family, which lives in New York.

The Cardinals signed Tim Rattay on Tuesday after it was learned Matt Leinart would miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. The Panthers then locked up Testaverde.

"When the Panthers called, I was excited about that," Testaverde said. "This is a much more workable situation for me."

The 6-foot-5 Testaverde certainly brings experience. He ranks sixth in NFL history 6,529 pass attempts, 3,693 completions and 45,281 yards passing. He's ninth with 270 touchdown passes and tied for 10th with 30 300-yard passing games.

Testaverde's best statistical season came in 1996 with Baltimore, when he made the first of his Pro Bowl appearances, throwing for 4,177 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Testaverde also made the Pro Bowl in 1998 with the New York Jets.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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