CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers placed quarterback Jake Delhomme on injured reserve Thursday with a broken finger on his throwing hand, ending his worst season as a pro and raising questions about his future with the franchise.
Delhomme said he broke the knuckle on his middle finger in a loss to the New York Jets on Nov. 29. He hasn't played or practiced since.
Matt Moore has started the last three games and threw for a career-high 299 yards and three touchdowns in last Sunday's upset win over Minnesota.
The Panthers (6-8) promoted quarterback Hunter Cantwell from the practice squad to take Delhomme's roster spot. A.J. Feeley is No. 2 on the depth chart.
"We thought he might be further along as far as his finger," coach John Fox said. "We kind of looked at it this week as far as gripping the ball, throwing the ball and it wasn't up to speed. We felt we needed to get another quarterback up. Hunter has been with us all year."
Despite committing six turnovers in Carolina's ugly playoff loss to Arizona in January, the Panthers gave the 34-year-old Delhomme a lucrative contract extension in the offseason. While it's a five-year deal, it's structured to be a three-year contract worth more than $25 million, with nearly $13 million guaranteed.
Delhomme then committed five more turnovers in a blowout loss to Philadelphia in the season opener, and had 18 interceptions and only eight touchdown passes in 11 games before the injury. Struggling with his accuracy, Delhomme completed only 55.5 percent of his passes.
"The '09 year, starting in January with the playoff game, for whatever reason it just hasn't been good football-wise for me," Delhomme said. "Certainly you want to finish, you want to get back out and play, but some things are just not meant to be."
While Delhomme is 58-40 as a starter with Carolina and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl after the 2003 season, his year of bad play has led to calls for a new QB.
If the salary cap remains in effect next season, the Panthers may have no choice but to bring him back because of his contract. But if negotiations stall on a new collective bargaining agreement and there is no cap, the Panthers could more easily jettison Delhomme.
Fox didn't clear up the issue Thursday.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of talk, there usually is," Fox said. "But with us, all of our focus is on the New York Giants. After that week, we'll finish up with the New Orleans Saints. And we evaluate everything after that. That would be true of our whole football team."
Delhomme acknowledged the Panthers haven't told him if they'll bring him back.
"There is a lot a time before they have to worry about making decisions and things of that nature," Delhomme said.
Receiver Steve Smith, Delhomme's top receiver, sidestepped questions about the quarterback's future on Thursday.
"I'm nobody to answer a question like that," Smith said. "That's playing somebody that I'm not."
Moore was limited in practice on Thursday with a sore shoulder but is expected to start Sunday against the Giants. Cantwell went undrafted out of Louisville and has spent the season on the practice squad after being cut before the start of the regular season.
The Panthers don't hold a first-round pick next year, which could also factor in on whether Delhomme is Carolina's quarterback in 2010.
But Delhomme made it clear he wants to be back.
"A hundred percent, yes," Delhomme said. "There is nothing inside of me that says let's try to start over someplace. Absolutely not. Not even remotely close."
NOTES: The Panthers were again without running backs DeAngelo Williams (ankle) and Tyrell Sutton (calf) in practice Thursday. Running back Jonathan Stewart (Achilles' tendon) practiced after sitting out Wednesday. ... Cornerback Richard Marshall (ankle) was limited. ... The Panthers added running back Devin Moore to take Cantwell's spot on the practice squad.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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