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Delhomme: Always a Carolina Cajun

CHARLOTTE -- Jake Delhomme never attempted to hide his emotions in seven seasons as the Panthers' quarterback. He wasn't going to start now.

"I wear my heart on my sleeve," he said, choking back tears. "This is me."

Friday afternoon, Delhomme said goodbye to the team he led to the Super Bowl and the city and region he came to love at a gut-wrenching press conference that followed the Panthers' decision to release him and four others as the new league year began.

With a tissue in hand to wipe tears from his eyes, Delhomme stated his hope of landing with another team, but added that in some ways, he'll always be a Panther.

"My horse racing silks are a football that's Panther blue with black. I'm not changing my silks," he said. "This place has given me an opportunity. I'm always going to be a Carolina Cajun.

"It's been a great run. I'm leaving with no animosity whatsoever. The way the Panthers handled the release was in a first-class way."

That being said, Delhomme admitted he was "blind-sided" when he learned the news Thursday.

"When I got a call (Thursday), I thought it was more (to say), 'We're going with Matt (Moore), and you'll be the backup,'" Delhomme said. "But they wanted to go in another direction, and that's fine. It's probably for the best."

The notion of Delhomme transitioning to a reserve role behind Moore -- who was publicly declared the team's "No. 1" quarterback by general manager Marty Hurney at a Friday morning news conference -- was broached when Delhomme met with head coach John Fox a day earlier.

"(Being a backup) was kind of brought up, but in all honesty I don't know if that would have worked," Delhomme said. "If I was here and I would have been the backup, I would not have rocked the boat. I would have done whatever Matt needed me to do or what other guys or what I felt needed to be done to help this team try to win, because ultimately you try to walk in after a football game with a smile on your face.

"If I'm back here and we're going with Matt as the guy, I'm going to compete. But if something is not going well one day or what not, you don't want somebody looking over their shoulder. I'm not saying he would of at all, but I just think it was probably best for everybody to go in that direction.

"I think the decision that was made -- a fresh start -- is probably best for both sides."

Eleven months ago, Delhomme signed a five-year contract extension that was scheduled to keep him with the team until 2014. But the long-term future that seemed assured began to slip away with a four-interception performance in a season-opening loss to Philadelphia.

In the 10 games that followed, Delhomme's fortune never reversed. By what turned out to be his final game in a Panthers uniform, his minus-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio (8-to-18) was the worst of his career and the worst in the league last season.

A broken finger sustained late in the Week 12 loss to the New York Jets ended the most frustrating year of his career, which began ominously with a five-interception, one-fumble night in the divisional-round loss to the Arizona Cardinals the previous January.

Delhomme acknowledged Friday that he didn't play the 2009 season with his typical mindset.

"When I play, I try to sling it around. I wasn't doing that last year," he said. "I was trying not to make the mistake. I can't. I don't play that way. That's not how I played when I first came here. That's not how I played through the 2008 season. For whatever reason last year I played not to make the mistake. That doesn't work for me. I think things compounded and things weren't going well. I just wanted to make it right as possible; I just couldn't do it."

But there were many other times in his seven years that he did, and it is to those that he will cling.

"There were so many highs: the last second wins that we had, the way we did things in the locker room, the way you saw certain guys develop, the relationships that you had with certain people," Delhomme said. "Another high was going to San Diego the first game of the '08 season coming off the elbow (surgery). Those are moments that you cherish, but there are so many.

"The positive moments outweigh the bad tenfold."

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