CHARLOTTE -- Steve Beuerlein's numbers do not bode well for the final 14 weeks of the Carolina Panthers' season.
Two games. Eleven sacks. Seventeen other knockdowns in the pocket. Several crushing shots on scrambles outside the pocket. One piece of torn cartilage in his left knee. Countless bumps, bruises and scrapes on his arms, legs and torso.
It's not exactly an ideal existence for an NFL quarterback. It's even less desirable when you're 34 and in your 13th season in the league.
Talk to Beuerlein, however, and you get the impression he doesn't really mind all the pounding.
"For whatever reason," he said with a shrug and a smile, "I've been blessed with a body that can take a beating."
Indeed, what has happened in the first two weeks of the season is nothing unusual for Beuerlein, as evidenced by the Ed Block Courage Award. Voted on each year by the players, the award goes to someone who displays perseverance in overcoming adversity.
In the first three years of the franchise, the Panthers voted the award, in order, to Brett Maxie, Lamar Lathon and Tshimanga Biakabutuka -- all for battling back from serious knee injuries that required surgery. Last year the award went to Beuerlein -- simply for surviving the constant onslaught he faced while starting at quarterback over the final 12 weeks of the season.
"Steve takes a pounding. He's one tough cookie," wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "But I'll tell you what. You see him take some of those hits and you know he's got to be in serious pain, but he comes back in the huddle and he's relaxed and calm. He's a real leader."
By his own admission, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Beuerlein is not the most agile quarterback to ever play the game, so he has grown somewhat accustomed to getting knocked around in the pocket.
"My style is I'm going to take a lot of hits," he said. "It's me. It's the way I play the game."
He also plays the game with a high degree of efficiency. Beuerlein has started 21 games for the Panthers and completed at least 50 percent of his passes in 19 of those contests, including the last 16 in a row.
Beuerlein completed 63 percent of his passes last year, tying him for the best mark in the NFL, and he's hitting at a 55-percent clip so far in 1999.
He has thrown at least one touchdown pass in a club-record eight consecutive games, and has yet to get intercepted more than twice in game with Carolina.
Coach George Seifert said he has no reason to be overly concerned about the health of Beuerlein, who suffered torn knee cartilage in Carolina's season-opening loss to New Orleans. Beuerlein said he felt he could play the rest of the season with the injury before getting it surgically repaired, and he got off to a good start, throwing for three touchdowns in last week's 22-20 loss to Jacksonville.
"He's a veteran," Seifert said. "He knows how to handle himself."
What does concern Seifert, however, is the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2). Seifert said Sunday's home game against the Bengals and their active defense represents another stiff test for Beuerlein and the offensive line charged with protecting him.
"We've got another crew coming in here that disrupts," Seifert said of the Bengals. "In fact, they might be more disruptive than the other two teams we've played."
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