CHARLOTTE – Matt Moore expects to start at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers' home opener Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, barring any unexpected developments between now and then.
Moore, who left last Sunday's opener at the New York Giants with a mild concussion, practiced fully Thursday.
While Moore declared himself ready to play in the locker room following practice, he admitted that he – along with the rest of the offense -- needs to play better.
"We just need to focus on ourselves, just tighten down everything and stay away from the big mistakes," said Moore, who completed 14-of-33 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions at the Giants. "Individually, just kind of play smart and not force some throws. We just need to keep improving and execute our offense."
Moore said that despite last Sunday's showing, the Panthers' passing attack had experienced significant growth since the start of training camp.
"Although I know it didn't really seem that way Sunday, we've made a lot of leaps and bounds," Moore said. "We understand that it's one game, and it's gone now. We're moving on, getting ready to play the Bucs. Confidence is still high."
It looks like Moore will have rookie wide receiver Brandon LaFell for Sunday's game. LaFell sat out Wednesday's practice with a hamstring injury but practiced on a limited basis Thursday and insisted afterwards that he'd play against Tampa Bay.
LaFell started the season opener over veteran Dwayne Jarrett and finished the game with two catches for 22 yards.
"I felt like with him being the older guy, they were going to give him the starter's spot and they were just going to let me come in – which I wouldn't have had any problem with," LaFell said. "I was surprised because both of us had good camps."
TAKING A HIT: Following the loss to the Giants, Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross expressed remorse for his missed block that seemed to lead to Moore's injury.
"As a left tackle, if you get beat, bad things happen," Gross said. "You can live with a sack now and then, but Matt got banged up."
But as it turns out, that wasn't the play where Moore actually got hurt.
Moore said it happened on the Panthers' previous drive. On that play, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka got around left guard Mackenzy Bernadeau and sacked Moore.
According to left guard Travelle Wharton, the offensive line must take collective responsibility for their quarterbacks going forward.
"You never want that to happen," Wharton said. "Our job is to protect him, no matter what. We have to make sure that doesn't happen again."
UNCHARTED TERRITORY: In rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen's three appearances during the preseason, he started his opening drives at midfield, 31 yards from the end zone and 23 yards from the end zone.
That certainly wasn't the situation in his regular season debut.
When Clausen came on for Moore against the Giants, he took over 97 yards from the end zone. On his two snaps, he showed patience in the pocket – in his own end zone – before throwing the ball away.
"It was a tough situation, being on the 2 or 3 or wherever we were, but that's what you get paid to do," Clausen said. "It's tough being in your own end zone, but you still have to let the play develop and go through your progression, just play the play."
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Even after the Minnesota Vikings waived kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd in the final round of roster cuts, Lloyd remained confident that the Vikings would re-sign him.
Then the Panthers swooped in and did some re-signing of their own, adding Lloyd – who handled kickoffs for Carolina in 2008 and '09 -- to the roster Tuesday.
"I was still in bed Monday morning when I got a phone call from my agent saying, 'What do you think about Carolina?' " Lloyd said. "I just started laughing. My wife was right next to me, and she just glared at me as if to say, 'We're doing a move again?'
"She's still in Minnesota doing the move, so I guess I kind of lucked out in getting out of that. She's stuck with the baby, the dog and all the other stuff, and I'm here, just hanging out. It worked out good for me."
Lloyd thought it would work out in Minnesota. He said the Vikings told him that may well make a move or two early in the season that would allow them to bring him back, but Lloyd jumped on the chance to return to Carolina.
"It's like I never left," Lloyd said. "There are quite a few new faces in the locker room, but it's good to be back. I stay in contact with a lot of these guys anyway."
TOUGH TICKET: Sunday's game against the Buccaneers is a sellout. The Panthers have sold out all but two games played at Bank of America Stadium since it opened in 1996.