Gardner had a 21-yard touchdown catch on Carolina's first drive to get the Panthers out to a quick lead that they turned into a 28-10 preseason victory over the Redskins on Saturday night. It was Carolina's 10th consecutive preseason victory dating to 2002.
Unhappy with his role in Washington's offense, Gardner asked the Redskins to trade him in January. It took them until late last month to pull off a deal with the Panthers, who gave up a sixth-round pick for him just days before training camp opened.
Gardner had his work cut out for him in Carolina's camp. Steve Smith, who missed 15 games last season with a broken leg, has a hold on one starting spot and second-year player Keary Colbert is slotted in the other. But with Colbert in street clothes nursing a hamstring injury, Gardner got the start against the Redskins.
|Steve Smith returned to the field for the Panthers in their 28-10 win. (AP)|
Gardner squared up against former teammate Ade Jimoh, fighting for the same piece of field. Gardner won, pulling down the touchdown catch, as Jimoh was flagged for pass interference. Gardner, who played just the first quarter, caught both balls thrown to him and finished with 31 yards receiving.
"I loved it," he said. "I'm glad (the touchdown) came on the first drive because I wanted to get it out of the way. I wasn't playing more than a quarter, so I had to do it fast."
The game marked the first time in almost a year that the Panthers were near full strength. They were decimated by injuries last season -- at one point they were down to their sixth-string running back -- and it led to a 1-7 start.
But everyone but running back Stephen Davis -- another former Redskins player -- is healthy, and it showed with a solid first quarter from the starters.
Washington, which is still trying to find a potent offensive scheme under coach Joe Gibbs, was able to move the ball a little against Carolina's first team right before the first quarter ended.
But the Redskins struggled on their first two drives. Patrick Ramsey ended their first possession when he underthrew Santana Moss and was intercepted by Chris Gamble, and they couldn't move the ball at all on their second attempt.
Both teams' backup quarterbacks led scoring drives.
Carolina's Chris Weinke threw a 1-yard TD pass to Michael Gaines and finished 6-for-9 for 79 yards. Stefan LeFors, Carolina's fourth-round draft pick, added a 1-yard TD pass to Drew Carter in the fourth quarter and later a 24-yarder to Aaron Boone.
Mark Brunell set up John Hall 's 43-yard field goal before halftime that cut Carolina's lead to 14-3. He marched the Redskins down the field again early in the third quarter, but Jeff Chandler missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Brunell also led Washington's only touchdown drive, a 14-play march
Jason Campbell, the Redskins' first-round draft choice, played the fourth quarter and went 10-of-18 for 132 yards.