NFL: Humbled Clausen begins pro career with Panthers
By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Perhaps it's fitting the No. 7 Jimmy Clausen wore in college was already taken in Carolina.
Now if the former Notre Dame quarterback ever forgets his stunning fall after being considered a sure high pick in the NFL draft, all he has to do is glance at the number on his Panthers jersey for a reminder of the round he was finally taken: 2.
Ready to prove his doubters wrong and possibly contend for a starting job as a rookie, Clausen suited up with the Panthers for the first time on Friday for the opening of the team's mandatory three-day minicamp.
"It's in the back of my head," Clausen said of his draft snub, "but at the end of the day I'm just trying to come in and learn as much as I can."
Clausen seemed humble after his first NFL workout. It was a trait often missing during a career that started as a high school phenom in California and continued when he went 16-18 as a three-year starter with the Fighting Irish.
That signature brashness was on display a week ago as he talked to reporters after Carolina finally ended his two-day draft wait.
"I just want to tell you that you guys made the best pick in the draft," he said.
That was followed with this bold declaration: "My goal is to try to be the starter from day one."
Maybe it was the week to consider his plight from falling from what some predicted would be a top 10 selection to 48th overall in part because of questions about his attitude. Maybe it was the shock of seeing the speed and increased talent in the NFL. Perhaps coach John Fox, famous for speaking but saying nothing, had a chat with him.
Either way, Clausen was saying — and doing — all the right things.
He arrived on Thursday from California with a 12-pack of Cactus Cooler, receiver Steve Smith's favorite orange-pineapple soda. He was seen on the field Friday buddying up with Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross on the field.
"I'm just trying to be one of the guys," he said. "Today was a good day, came out here and it was back to football. Had a good time, have a lot of learning to do and all the quarterbacks are helping me out. It's going well."
Clausen's arrival is part of Carolina's new quarterback era that started when seven-year starter Jake Delhomme was abruptly cut in March after a miserable 18-interception season.
Matt Moore, who went 4-1 when Delhomme was sidelined with a broken finger at the end of last season, was immediately named the starter. Then Moore watched the Panthers draft not only Clausen, but also former Cincinnati QB Tony Pike in the sixth round.
"I don't know if there's any more room in the quarterback room," Moore joked, "but good guys, excited to have them here and ready to work with them."
Moore insisted he's not worried about his hold on the No. 1 job. While he's taking the snaps with the first team now, coach John Fox signaled the position is up for grabs. Moore has only eight career NFL starts — but the other three QBs on the roster have none.
"Right now he's the No. 1 quarterback," Fox said of Moore. "Those guys will decide that, not me. I felt real comfortable with Matt at the end of last season. I thought he showed improvement in both seasons he's had an opportunity to play. We'll see where that takes us."
Fox said Clausen was "swimming" as he learned the offense on Friday, even though he had a head start by working in the same pro-style system at Notre Dame under Fox's friend Charlie Weis. The four-time Pro Bowl pick Smith said it was too early to have an impression of Clausen.
Soon, though, No. 2 will get a chance to prove he's better than No. 48.
"I think my accuracy is a big strength of mine," Clausen said. "Being a durable quarterback, playing when I'm hurt. Being a team leader and bringing teams back in the fourth quarter."
NOTES: Fox didn't seem overly concerned that CB Richard Marshall was absent. Upset with his contract situation, the restricted free agent still hasn't signed his one-year, $1.759 million tender. "I understand it and I know Richard is working hard," Fox said. "He's talked to a lot of his teammates. We'll see him when he gets here." ... LB Thomas Davis, another restricted free agent, practiced for the first time since his season-ending knee injury on Nov. 8. ... Former Appalachian State QB and third-round pick Armanti Edwards drew plenty of attention working as a WR and PR. "I've got a lot to learn and lot to improve on," he said. ... Several players recovering from injuries sat out, including RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Ts Jordan Gross and Jeff Otah and DE Tyler Brayton.