St. Pierre gets starting nod

CHARLOTTE – On quarterback Brian St. Pierre's first day of practice as a member of the Panthers' active roster, head coach John Fox related the story of Vinny Testaverde's successful start on short notice three years ago.

"John Fox came up to me on Wednesday and said, 'Testaverde did this three years ago,'" St. Pierre said. "I said, 'Well, Vinny has a little better résumé than I do.'"

Thursday, the 30-year-old St. Pierre got an unexpected résumé builder, when quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer told him before practice that he'll get his first career start Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens visit Bank of America Stadium.

St. Pierre can only hope it turns out as well as it did for Testaverde. In October of 2007, with Jake Delhomme out for the season and David Carr injured, the Panthers brought the then-43-year-old Testaverde in as a free agent.

Four days later, he led the Panthers to a road victory over the Arizona Cardinals, becoming the oldest quarterback in NFL history to win a game.

"I appreciate that they have enough faith in me to throw me out there, and I hope I can reward them by holding my own this Sunday and hopefully helping this team win," St. Pierre said. "I'm going to give it the best I've got."

A week ago, St. Pierre was taking care of his 18-month-old son in his Boston-area home. He clung to hope that his NFL career wasn't over by throwing with his former high school team once a week, but he also pursued television work as an NFL analyst just in case.

Then last Friday, he joined the Panthers practice squad and worked with the scout team. Tuesday, he was signed to the active roster. Wednesday, he went through his first full practice.

Thursday, he learned that he'll get to do something that he never got a chance to do in his previous seven seasons in the NFL. St. Pierre last started a game in 2002, when he was named MVP of the Motor City Bowl in Boston College's 51-25 victory over Toledo.

Boston College was still a member of the Big East Conference, and Carolina offensive line coach Dave Magazu – now in his eighth year with the Panthers – was still the Eagles' line coach.

"It's kind of a surreal situation," St. Pierre said.

St. Pierre's opportunity began to develop when starting quarterback Matt Moore suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 7. Rookie Jimmy Clausen started last Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but suffered a concussion that kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday.

Rookie Tony Pike appeared to be next in line, but Fox said Wednesday that it was an open competition and made his decision Thursday.

"With Brian being in Baltimore and with the Steelers, he's seen these guys a lot. Being a veteran, they obviously feel that he can maybe see the things they're doing a little better," Pike said. "As a competitor, you want to be the guy to try to turn things around. But as a backup, you can't really be disappointed by anything because if something happens, you're expected to go in there and play at the level that they expect you to play."

Pike is among those who have been working to get St. Pierre up to speed. St. Pierre said he's been arriving at the stadium around 7 a.m. and departing around 9 p.m.

"I've been taking it minute by minute, day by day, trying to learn the offense," he said. "I know what I'm doing, but to transfer it to where you're not thinking on the field and you're just playing and reacting, that's my biggest challenge probably this week."

The receivers that St. Pierre will be targeting with his quick delivery recognize that they're working with a veteran.

"You can tell he's been around the league for a while," tight end Dante Rosario said. "For having to pick up the offense up this quick, he's already got our calls down, and he knows the checks. It seems to be going pretty well for him.

"The more we surround him as players and help him out, the easier his job will be."

Rookie wide receiver David Gettis said that St. Pierre has the big things down-pat but that things like getting down the timing with individual receivers, "that takes time, but we've just got to cram it all in this week and go from there."

St. Pierre is ready to tackle a different version of the hurry-up offense – after so many years of playing a waiting game.

"The circumstances were different in my mind when I thought about it, but it's an opportunity to play," St. Pierre said. "I just want to do well for these guys and hopefully try to get them a win.

"It's tough being 1-8, but these guys to their credit are still working hard, so I'm hoping to go get one."

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