CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brian St. Pierre has thrown five passes in eight NFL seasons. He wasn't in a training camp this summer and as recent as last week was a stay-at-home dad.
A season of anemic offensive play, multiple injuries and one victory took an even stranger twist Thursday when coach John Fox picked St. Pierre, 30, over rookie Tony Pike to play against Baltimore.
"The guy has been in some games," Fox said.
That's good enough these days to start for the Panthers (1-8), the NFL's lowest-scoring team with nine touchdowns and no healthy, experienced quarterback.
Pike is a sixth-round pick from Cincinnati who has appeared in one game and who Fox doesn't think is ready to start.
Enter St. Pierre, a fifth-round pick of Pittsburgh in 2003 who is 2 of 5 for 12 yards, a touchdown and an interception with three teams.
"I know what the situation looks like to everyone," St. Pierre said. "It is what it is. I'm not going to complain about it."
St. Pierre, who had last practiced in January as he finished a stint with Arizona, was spending his days taking care of his 18-month-old son in the Boston area and doing some television work when he was signed to the practice squad on Friday. He was promoted to the active roster Tuesday.
He joked Wednesday that the Panthers put his locker by the offensive linemen because they're "trying to tell me something about my waistline." After splitting time with the first team Wednesday he said it was "surreal" to think he might start.
"I figured with Tony being in the offense they would go that way," said St. Pierre, who is spending 12 to 14 hours at the stadium this week in a cram session to learn the offense.
Not only will he be facing the league's 10th-rated defense that's had 10 days to stew over a last-minute loss to Atlanta, the Panthers likely will be without their top three running backs, No. 3 receiver and two of their starting offensive linemen.
And now Fox has decided St. Pierre "gives us the best chance" instead of Pike, who was 6 of 12 for 47 yards while playing the fourth quarter of Carolina's 34-3 loss to New Orleans on Nov. 7.
"You're always disappointed if you're not the guy," Pike said. "At the same point you don't have much time to hang your head."
St. Pierre was a two-year starter at Boston College before being selected by the Steelers. But he never was able to rise above No. 3 quarterback there or in Baltimore or Arizona.
He went four consecutive seasons without throwing a pass before a brief appearance for Arizona last season. He said he had a back injury and the Cardinals weren't committed to bringing him back.
St. Pierre had only one offseason workout, with the New England Patriots, but wasn't offered a deal. He then turned down a contract for about $50,000 to play for Omaha in the United Football League.
"I've played long enough in the league where (money) wasn't a huge issue for me," St. Pierre said. "With a young kid, I didn't want to uproot him and bring him to Omaha, Neb."
UFL contracts don't have an out clause to go to the NFL, which reduced the available pool of quarterbacks for the Panthers to choose from. So now St. Pierre is not only on an NFL roster, he's starting.
"I don't know how many times this has ever happened really," he said.
The Panthers had a similar situation in 2007, when they brought in Vinny Testaverde, 43, on Tuesday and he won a game at Arizona on Sunday.
"John Fox came in to me on Wednesday and said, 'Vinny Testaverde came in and did this three years ago,'" St. Pierre said. "And I said, 'Well, Vinny has a little better resume than I do.'
"I appreciate they have enough faith to throw me out there. I hope I can reward them by holding my own Sunday."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press