Rodney Peete isn't the Carolina Panthers' quarterback of the future.
He's the quarterback of the here and now.
Peete, who hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game in two years, was named the starter for tomorrow's season opener against the Ravens after Carolina coach John Fox demoted Chris Weinke after two subpar preseason outings.
The timing was awkward, to say the least.
"I did not anticipate this happening, especially with Chris going all the way through training camp and four preseason games as the starting quarterback," Peete said. "It definitely caught me by surprise."
The switch sent shock waves through the Panthers' locker room, where the assumption was the job was Weinke's without question.
"It was a bold move on Coach Fox's part and sends a message to everybody," tight end Wesley Walls said. "Coach is not afraid to make changes, and that point should trickle down to every last one of us."
Peete, who was signed in March as Weinke's backup, is excited about the opportunity to start a game for the first time in five years. The 14-year veteran has the intangibles Panthers coaches like - he has won as a starter in Detroit and Philadelphia, leading both teams to playoff appearances. That may be too daunting a task with the Panthers, who set an NFL record with 15 straight losses last year.
Weinke started 15 games, passing for 2,931 yards, 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. His quarterback rating of 62.0 was second-lowest in the NFL.
"You play this game to play," Peete said. "The reason why I'm still around after 14 years is that I still have that excitement over the opportunity to go out and play."
Weinke was shocked as well.
"Going through the whole preseason, and with it being the week of the first game, it's tough. It's a decision that Coach Fox has made. He's the head coach and he makes those decisions. Am I happy about it? No. No competitor would be happy about this situation."
Peete, 36, completed nine of 19 passes for 68 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in two quarters of preseason work. He missed much of training camp with a strained knee, the death of his father-in-law and the birth of his third child, but Fox said Peete's familiarity with the system made him the better option.
"I think right now at this point with Chris only having five weeks in the offense and Rodney having a past in it, I think this decision is purely to give us the best chance of winning Sunday," Fox said.
"I think that's the reason I was brought here in the first place, my relationship with [offensive coordinator] Dan Henning," Peete said. "I've been in this offense, even though it was back in '92. I have a good relationship with Dan, and I think we work well together. Hopefully, our relationship is where I can go to him and say, 'I like this and I like that,' or, 'I don't like this and I don't like that,' and he will listen to me and kind of go with what I'm feeling at that certain time."
As a mentor to Weinke, Peete has talked to him about the nuances of playing quarterback in the NFL.
"Since I first got here, Chris and I have really developed a good relationship," Peete said. "It's been a good situation all the way, even through training camp and even today with this situation. ... The only thing that I can tell him is just to keep his head up and keep on working and stay as positive as he can. I know that's easy to say and a difficult thing to do, but in this business, you never know what's going to happen."
Because Peete's role may be temporary, he's thinking only of preparing for the Ravens. Everything else will take care of itself.
"I'm not trying to look too far past this week," he said. "I'm trying to concentrate on getting ready for Baltimore and doing whatever I can to get myself ready and getting this team, especially the first unit, used to me playing. Whatever happens after that, we'll take it week-by-week."