Originally created 09/17/02

Peete now Panthers' permanent starter



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rodney Peete can stop looking over his shoulder - his best outing in 10 years has officially given him job security as Carolina's starting quarterback.

Peete had been operating on a week-to-week basis with the Panthers, needing to do enough on game days to keep Chris Weinke on the bench and possibly lead Carolina to a few wins.

He's done both - sparking the Panthers to a 2-0 start and giving Weinke a permanent spot on the sidelines by throwing for 310 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 31-7 victory over Detroit.

His passing total was his best since the 36-year-old threw for 323 on Sept. 27, 1992 while with Detroit.

For that, first-year coach John Fox finally ended the uncertainty when he confirmed Monday that Peete is the Panthers' starter.

"I'd say that's fair," Fox said. "When you're named the starter, it's your job to have or to lose and Rodney has prepared and played admirably and he's the starting quarterback."

The announcement was hardly a surprise: The Panthers have won their first two games for the first time since 1996 and Peete has a lot to do with it.

He's got the offense rolling, has yet to commit a turnover and his quarterback rating of 105 ranks second in the NFC.

"I'm just trying to go and be steady," Peete said. "I'm not trying to put this team in bad situations throughout the course of the game, I'm just trying to play consistent. When there are plays to be made, then make them. That's my focus for each and every game."

He was steady - not spectacular - in Carolina's season-opening win over Baltimore.

Against the Lions, with whom he started his career, he picked apart the defense.

His 22-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad was one of the highlights, coming at the end of the first half to give the Panthers momentum. And it came when the coaching staff's headsets stopped working, forcing Peete to run the plays with no help.

Peete said he thought the Lions were going to blitz him, so he told Muhammad in the huddle to make a quick break and look for the ball. Sure enough, Detroit blitzed, but Peete had already fired the ball into the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.

"He consistently makes the right decision and consistently makes the right read," Muhammad said. "Someone around here knew he still had it in him, otherwise he wouldn't have been made the starter. Now he's doing a good job of proving to everyone else that he's still got something left."

So there is no quarterback controversy in Carolina because the players have rallied around Peete.

"He's a leader," said receiver Steve Smith. "He comes in there and tells people 'Listen up, this is what we're going to do.' It's like, shut your mouth because the captain's talking."

Peete's performance has left Weinke's future in limbo. When Peete was named the starter, Fox insisted Weinke was still the quarterback of Carolina's future.

But as long as Peete continues to win, there seems to be little room for Weinke. He got spot playing time Sunday after the victory was already in check, failing to complete his only pass attempt and mishandling a snap that was nearly fumbled.

By Monday, Fox had little to say about Weinke's place in the organization.

"I will say he did have his best week of practice last week," Fox said. "And he got a little bit of time Sunday against Detroit and I thought he did OK there.

"Right now, guys are always being evaluated and right now the quarterback list is the same as it was last week."