Collins sustains possible broken nose

The sight had an eerie familiarity: Quarterback Kerry Collins slowly walking off the field in the second exhibition, bleeding from his face.

A year ago, the broken jaw Collins suffered against the Denver Broncos in an exhibition sidelined him for four weeks and devastated the Panthers' season.

It's not nearly so serious this time.

Collins suffered what doctors said appeared to be a broken nose late in the second quarter of a 12-7 exhibition win over the Buffalo Bills, in which kicker John Kasay connected on all four field goal attempts. X-rays taken in Buffalo were inconclusive and more will be taken today in Charlotte.

Coach Dom Capers said Collins is doubtful for next Saturday's exhibition against Minnesota, but could return for the final exhibition Aug. 29 at Pittsburgh -- probably wearing a protective shield on his helmet.

Collins said if it had been a regular-season game Friday, he could have come back and played in the second half, wearing the shield.

Asked if he had flashbacks of the jaw-breaking hit he took from Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski last year, Collins said:

``It's just kind of funny, kind of ironic,'' he said. ``But this pales in comparison with what happened to me last year. This isn't anything near as bad. In my mind, I'm honestly not really thinking anything of it.

``With the equipment, we can take care of it and I know I won't get hit there again.''

The injury occurred with 69 seconds remaining in the first half when Collins was sacked by Bills' defensive lineman Pat Williams. Collins said as he was falling to the ground, the hand of a player, presumably Williams, got inside his helmet and hit him in the nose like a punch.

The Panthers (2-0) were in their two-minute offense at the time, trailing 7-6 and trying to drive for a go-ahead score before halftime.

Collins' nose was bleeding as he walked off the field. A few minutes later, he was escorted into the locker room by trainer John Kasik.

Collins watched the second half from the sidelines, wearing street clothes and sunglasses.

Collins' performance before the injury had been efficient, but unspectacular. He wasn't as sharp as he was in last week's game against Jacksonville. He completed 12-of-23 passes for 138 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

At least three of his incompletions were due to drops -- by Fred Lane, Kris Mangum and Rae Carruth.

Collins and the offense had a repeat of three of the problems that plagued them against Jacksonville:

Collins fumbled a center snap from Frank Garcia, something that happened twice last week. He recovered both against the Jaguars, but Bills' linebacker Marlo Perry fell on this one at the 50-yard line.

The Panthers couldn't get their running game going. They averaged 2.6 yards per carry in the first half (42 yards on 16 attempts). Lane had a 9-yard gain, but managed just 23 yards on his other 11 carries.

The offense couldn't score a touchdown in the first half against the Bills' defensive starters despite driving inside Buffalo's 25-yard line twice.

Collins directed a drive to the Bills' 1 on the Panthers' first offensive possession. His first pass was a 15-yard completion to Rae Carruth and he later connected with tight end Wesley Walls on passes of 15 and 14 yards.

But the drive stalled at the 1. The Panthers ran three plays and couldn't score.

Kasay -- the Mr. Automatic of this preseason -- then came in for the first of his four field goals, a 20-yarder.

Kasay later added field goals of 49, 46 and 37 yards to give the Panthers the win. He made five field goals in last week's 30-27 win over Jacksonville, including a game-winner in the final seconds.

The most Panthers' pleasant surprise for probably was the play of their makeshift defensive line against the Bills' starting offensive line in the first half.

With defensive ends Sean Gilbert and Shawn King sidelined by injuries, Buffalo had been expected to run well against Carolina.

But it didn't work out that way. With substitutes Tim Morabito and rookie Chuck Wiley playing better than expected and nose tackle Mike Fox having a big night, the Bills had trouble running the ball.

The Bills' running backs gained just 37 yards on 13 carries in the first half -- an average of less than three yards per try. Buffalo's top running threat was quarterback Rob Johnson, with four scrambles for 27 yards.

``It just goes to show that what you may think likes like a tough situation can turn out to be an opportunity,'' Capers said. ``That was very evident tonight. And it's good because to be a football game, you've got to have depth.''

Fox finished with two sacks and Morabito narrowly missed decking Johnson another time. However, Morabito suffered a strained left shoulder in the third quarter and had to leave.

But the news wasn't all good for Carolina's defense. Wide receiver Quin Early burned backup cornerback Rod Smith on a 40-yard reception from Johnson that set up the Bills' first touchdown.

The score came one play later on a 1-yard run by Antowain Smith.

Earlier in the game, Johnson had a 31-yard completion to Kevin Williams to the Panthers' 10, but a clutch play by Carolina cornerback Doug Evans nullified it by causing a fumble that was recovered by Rod Smith.

Rookie quarterback Dameyune Craig had a rocky start to his pro career, throwing an interception on his first play -- seven seconds into his first possession.

The Bills took over at the Carolina 48 and drove to the 1, but couldn't score against the defensive reserves. Linebacker Kinnon Tatum twice hurled his body into the middle of the line to stop Buffalo running backs. The scoring threat ended when Tatum forced a fumble and Spencer Reid recovered in the end zone.