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Testaverde to retire after Panthers' game at Tampa Bay

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After 21 seasons, Vinny Testaverde has
had enough.

The 44-year-old quarterback said Saturday that he'll retire
after Carolina's season finale at Tampa Bay on Sunday.

"I just feel like it's time," Testaverde told The Associated
Press before boarding the team bus for the airport. "Obviously at
44 it does get a little bit tougher as the weeks go by. I'm glad
I'm able to do it on my own terms and walk away from the game not
only healthy, but to experience some of the things I've been
through."

Testaverde was out of the league until the Panthers, desperate
for quarterback help after injuries to Jake Delhomme and
David Carr, signed him on Oct. 10. Four days and only three practices
later, Testaverde became the oldest starting QB to win a game when
he led the Panthers to a victory at Arizona.

"It's going to be, for me, one of my special moments in the
NFL," Testaverde said. "To come in with three days of preparation
and go out and help a team win a football game and contribute, I'm
proud of the fact I was able to do that."

Testaverde started five more games for Carolina and completed 94
of 172 passes for 952 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions.

But his body wore down late in the season, and he was sidelined
by back pain and a right Achilles tendon injury that kept him out
of games and practices the past month.

Testaverde said he started contemplating retirement several
weeks ago.

"You want to be able to go out there and perform the way you
think you can," Testaverde said. "When you have some things that
hinder you from doing that, it makes it tougher."

Testaverde's final game will come where his pro career started.

The 1986 Heisman Trophy winner at Miami, Testaverde was the No.
1 overall pick by Tampa Bay in the 1987 draft. He got off to rocky
start, throwing 13 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions in his
second season with the Buccaneers, his first as the full-time
starter.

Testaverde weathered the criticism for three more seasons before
moving to Cleveland. After the franchise moved to Baltimore,
Testaverde made his first Pro Bowl in 1996.

Testaverde made the Pro Bowl two years later with the
New York Jets, when he had 29 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions.
Late in his career he played with Dallas and New England.

Testaverde ranks sixth in the league for career attempts
(6,701), completions (3,787) and yards passing (45,233). Testaverde
has thrown 275 touchdown passes and 267 interceptions.

Testaverde also holds the NFL record by throwing at least one
touchdown pass in 21 straight seasons.

"I think my years in Tampa Bay have taught me a lot, not only
about football, but about life," Testaverde said. "It kind of
helped me grow a tough skin. I went through some tough times as a
professional athlete there, but it's a great place, a great town.
It's come full circle."

Testaverde also plans to move his family from Long Island in New
York to Tampa early next year. While he said he's not interested in
coaching, he would like to get involved working with athletes on
conditioning and weightlifting. Testaverde has credited his
longevity to a rigorous workout program

Testaverde said he is healthy enough to play against the
Buccaneers, if called on. He'll likely be the No. 2 quarterback for
Carolina (6-9) behind undrafted rookie Matt Moore, who took over
for the banged up Testaverde three games ago.

"It was a privilege to work with Vinny this season," Panthers
coach John Fox said in a statement. "He not only helped us on the
field, but also in the locker room, where his work ethic was a
great example for our players."

Testaverde said he told the team of his decision Saturday
morning. He also gave Fox, under heavy criticism for a second
straight season out of the playoffs, a strong endorsement.

"This team is a talented football team. What's going to make
the difference for them next year is what they do in the offseason
to prepare themselves," Testaverde said. "They'll try to bring in
some pieces they feel they need, but I think they have a great
nucleus and they're heading in the right direction.

"And coach Fox is the guy to do it for them, too."