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Delhomme's elbow faces Merriman test

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    By Chris Jenkins

    September 5, 2008

    There's surely a part of him that might even wish Shawne Merriman would've decided to sit out at least one game of the 2008 regular season, specifically, this first one. That wouldn't just be Delhomme's sense of self-preservation talking, but also the scar on his right elbow, the joint he uses to make his living as an esteemed quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. And yet, when Delhomme sees Merriman doing everything in his power to get his hands on him Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, he'll appreciate the thought behind it. And the pain.
    “Honestly, I know if that was myself in his situation, I don't think there's any doubt I'd want to play, too,” said Delhomme. “Your time is so limited in this game. Your window of opportunity is so small, you have to enjoy it. I don't know Shawne at all, but when you see the kind of player he is and the way the other guys feed off him, it's hard to sit out.”
    To a certain extent, Delhomme was in Merriman's situation a year ago. For more than a year, his elbow was barking at him long and loud – and not just when he tried to pass a football, which he admits to usually throwing with a pronounced wobble. It also hurt when he brushed his teeth or hair.
    “I went in, in the back of my mind, going into the '06 season, that something's not right,” said Delhomme. “I really didn't know what it is, I really didn't want to know just yet. That was always in the back of my mind. And I was just hoping to get through the season last year. I knew some procedure had to be done. What, I didn't know.”
    Delhomme, 33, chose to ignore the stabbing pain, too, until the major ligament exploded in Carolina's third game of the 2007 season. That he's able to start Sunday against the Chargers, just months after Tommy John surgery, is a marvel of modern sports science and testimony to how much Delhomme wants to put the Panthers back among the NFC's pre-eminent franchises.
    Even with the severity of the surgery – he also had a bone spur treated, a forearm muscle repaired and a floating bone chip removed – Delhomme said his arm hasn't felt this good “in four or five years.” That's a mouthful, considering Delhomme almost beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl after the 2003 season and returned the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game two years later.
    The Panthers fell to 7-9 a year ago but won two of the three games started by Delhomme, who threw eight touchdown passes and only one interception despite being unable to completely lift his passing arm.
    After talking excitedly and extensively about how the surgery has rejuvenated his game, Delhomme said in his Louisiana drawl, “I'll probably throw a buncha ducks on Sunday 'cause I'm saying this.”
    Ducks don't fly far against the Chargers, who led the NFL in interceptions and takeaways last year. San Diego's defense definitely wouldn't be a quarterback's first choice for a first official test of his post-surgical throwing arm. Delhomme summed up his description of the Chargers defense in two words: “No weaknesses.”
    More challenging yet for the Panthers, Delhomme won't have his favorite and most dependable target. Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith is sitting out Carolina's first two games, suspended by the team for a training-camp altercation with teammate Ken Lucas. “To say that it's not a problem, I wouldn't say that,” said Delhomme. “We're going to play one of the premier teams in the NFL without our No. 1 offensive weapon, so that's going to have an effect, no doubt. But the team handled it the right way. It was nipped in the bud real quick.”

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