NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

QB Chris Weinke (AP)

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he has a better grasp of what we're doing this year and we're pleased with him." -- Offensive coordinator Dan Henning on the play of QB Chris Weinke.

   --Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner, who recently signed a four-year contract extension, underwent surgery on his right knee and will miss the final two preseason games. Fox hopes Buckner will be ready for the regular season opener against Jacksonville.

   "It was just wear and tear more than anything," Fox said. "It was something that we evaluated whether to go through rehab and rest or go in and clean out. After the fact, they are glad that they went in and cleaned it. He responded well to the surgery."

   --Chris Weinke is continuing to make a solid case to be the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback.

   While other quarterbacks are getting the offense near the end zone, Weinke is getting them in. In two preseason games, the Panthers have scored three offensive touchdowns, all of them with Weinke under center.

   A year ago, the Panthers benched Weinke because he didn't produce.

   If you use that same logic this year, Weinke should be starting -- or at the very least getting some reps with the first team.

   In two games he's completed 15 of 20 passes for 145 yards and also showed some ability to get out of the pocket in Saturday night's game against the New York Giants, rushing for 18 yards on three carries. And, Weinke has looked better than the other three quarterbacks in practice.

   Some will argue that Weinke's numbers are slightly tainted since he's been working against a second team defense (even though he's playing with the second team offense).

   Of course, there's only one way to found out.

   But it doesn't sound like Fox is going to change his approach, at least not this week.

   When asked about his quarterback rotation after the game, he replied, "I think all of our quarterback have looked sharp at this point and we'll just continue on that rotation."

   When he's asked to break down the play of his quarterbacks, Fox remains purposely vague. Maybe he doesn't want to give up his game plan. Maybe he's planning on pulling a late switch like he did last season. Or maybe he's just hasn't made up his mind and needs more time.

   In any event, Weinke is giving the coaching staff something to think about.

   Panthers offensive coordinator Dan Henning, the man who recommended Weinke be benched prior to last year's season opener, is singing his praises this year.

   "Chris' performance is much better than it was when he played last year," Henning said. "I like what he's doing. He's never deviated. He's worked hard. He's been professional about everything he's done."

   Henning called Weinke's 2002 season a "throw away" year and seems open to giving him another shot. That's saying something, since many wrote Weinke off as being a salary cap casualty even before the team arrived at their June minicamp.

   "You're talking about coming off a year (in 2001) in which he was thrown into the mix seven days before the season started," Henning said. "And then the team not doing well and him taking the heat for it. And then last year he wasn't able to throw much before training camp. But he's come back out this year and worked real hard."

   --Defensive end Kavika Pittman is one NFL player willing to admit what many fans think: that it really IS about the money.

   When Pittman signed a one-year contract this off-season with the Carolina Panthers, he did so hoping to set himself up for a more lucrative deal next spring.

   "My look on the whole picture is that I came over here to a good defensive line," Pittman said. "If the defense can play well this year and I can play well, I can do some things for myself next year. Everybody wants a person who came from a top-rated defense. And if I can produce and make some plays this year, it will give me a chance to get back into the swing of things."

   After a 2002 season in which Pittman failed to register a sack, the Denver Broncos decided they weren't about to pay him $2.8 million this season.

   The Broncos asked him to take a reduction in pay, but Pittman refused. Shortly after, the Broncos released him.

   Pittman found little interest in a dried up free agent market and wound up signing a one-year deal with the Panthers on May 22 worth $655,000, the league minimum for a player of is tenure.

   Pittman probably could have made a little more had he went to another team, but he felt the Panthers would give him the best option for making money down the road.

   "I think the encouraging thing for him was that he knew he would get to play here," Fox said. "I think he's a quality player, and I think he's definitely going to help us.

   "We had a strong front to begin with. Now with Pep (Julius Peppers) back and Al Wallace backing up that side and then bringing Kavika into the rotation behind Mike (Rucker), we have a lot more depth there. I think at defensive end that's a pretty good rotation with those four guys."

   Pittman knows the key will be to do what he did Saturday night -- make plays when the opportunities arise.

   --Quarterback Chris Weinke said Wednesday he's able to make throws that he wasn't able to make last year at training camp.

   Weinke was coming off shoulder surgery last spring and some members of the coaching staff believe that may have affected his performance last summer.

   Weinke was ultimately benched in favor of Rodney Peete.

   "I feel more comfortable throwing the ball now than I ever have been," Weinke said. "I'm healthy and I feel like I'm comfortable. And when you are more comfortable you feel like you have more confidence in every throw you make. So I feel more comfortable now."

   Weinke feels like he's having a good training camp, and many observers believe he's looked better than the team's other three quarterbacks.

   "I feel like I've made good throws consistently throughout can't that I couldn't make last year," Weinke said. "I think it's a combination of being healthy and being more comfortable this year."

   Weinke said now it's a matter of translating that success to the field during preseason games. He played well in his 2003 debut Saturday night against the Washington Redskins.

   "Yeah, that is how we get judged in game-type situations. I will continue to do that. I think you get your comfort level in practice and then take that into the ball game."

   As for where he ends up on the depth, Weinke said, "I know personally all I can control is how I approach practice. The chips will fall where they will fall every day. What I can control is to get better every day and see what happens in the end."

   --The Panthers had a scary moment in Wednesday morning's practice when Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins went down after rolling his ankle. Jenkins was carted off the field, but x-rays revealed no broken bones. When Jenkins went down, fellow defensive linemen Julius Peppers, Mike Rucker and Brentson Buckner gathered around him.

   "He's one of the best players on the team and when he goes down you want to know what's going on," Peppers said.

   Jenkins appreciated the attention, but joked, "They are a little bit too sensitive."

   --Ex-Carolina Panthers wide receiver Patrick Jeffers has filed a lawsuit against the Panthers, former orthopedist DR. Donald D'Alessandro and his practice alleging medical negligence.

   In the lawsuit filed in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, Jeffers alleges he wasn't aware of some of the procedures that were performed on his knee, most notably a microfracture surgery performed in the summer of 2000.

   Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said the team had not received anything from Jeffers' attorneys and the team had no comment.

   The Miller Clinic, where D'Alessandro works, has also been named in Jeffers' lawsuit.

   However, Panthers safety Mike Minter, who developed a staph infection in his knee following an operation early in his career, also performed by D'Alessandro, said he has not considered any lawsuits.

   "I got blessed. The Lord healed me and I came back and I'm playing now," Minter said. "When you aren't able to play because you feel something went wrong, I think that is when you look at something like that."

   Jeffers came to Carolina in 1999 and caught 63 passes for 1,982 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1999. After signing a four-year, $10 million contract extension, Jeffers tore the ACL in his right knee during an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had surgery less than two weeks later on his right knee and also had microfracture surgery on his left knee. Jeffers alleges in the lawsuit that he never consented to that procedure but wanted a simple procedure to clean out loose particles.

  

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think he has a better grasp of what we're doing this year and we're pleased with him." -- Offensive coordinator Dan Henning on the play of QB Chris Weinke.

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