NFL: Panthers' Clausen waits as third-stringer
By Steve Reed
CHARLOTTE — Jimmy Clausen doesn’t need a bye week.
He hasn’t played enough this season for the Carolina Panthers to warrant such a break.
One year after being selected in the second round and starting 10 games as a rookie, Clausen has become an afterthought in Carolina’s high-powered offense.
He’s third on the depth chart at quarterback behind rookie sensation and No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton and veteran backup Derek Anderson. The Panthers only dress two quarterbacks on game day, so Clausen has been inactive for all eight games.
It all leaves Clausen’s future with the Panthers a little cloudy.
But the former Notre Dame product isn’t interested in politicking for a trade. He is just bidding his time and says he’s just trying to get better.
“It’s hard,” Clausen said of being the team’s third-string quarterback. “I want to play, but it’s not my time right now. What I’m here to do right now is to learn and watch. I’m learning from D.A. (Anderson) and learning from things Cam is doing, and I’m trying to help the team.”
Newton has taken every snap at quarterback this season and been impressive despite the team’s 2-6 record. He’s shown remarkable poise in the pocket, great decision making and outstanding leadership that leaves no doubt as to who’s the quarterback of the future in Carolina.
Clausen, in the meanwhile, has been splitting scout team reps in practice with Anderson.
He who was elevated to the No. 2 spot before the regular season opener because of his familiarity with offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s system. Anderson played for Chudzinski with the Cleveland Browns and went to the Pro Bowl there, so he has a comfort level with the system.
Clausen is biding his time hoping for another opportunity — either in Carolina or somewhere else — after a year in which he went 1-9 as a starter on the league’s worst offense.
Clausen said he hasn’t approached the team about a trade of what his future might entail, instead focusing on the task at hand of getting better.
“You can only control what you can control,” Clausen said. “Cam is playing really well right now and putting the team in position to win every game, so I’m just trying to help him as much as I can.”
Clausen, whose contract runs through 2013, said he’s focused on bringing a positive attitude to practice rather than being a distraction.
“It would be easy to go out each day and hang your head and just go through the motions, but I need to literally go out there and work on my craft, work on my game,” Clausen said. “The biggest thing former coaches and teammates are telling me is to just take this time to learn and get better in practice.”
Coach Ron Rivera compares Clausen’s plight to that of Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who went through a similar situation in Chicago when the Bears drafted Jay Cutler in the first round — although Orton certainly had more success when he was a starter than Clausen did.
Orton eventually was traded to Denver where he regained a starting role, although he’s since lost that spot to Tim Tebow.
Clausen might have to go somewhere else to make his mark in the league.
“Only time will tell as far as he’s concerned,” Rivera said. “The thing I appreciate is his professionalism. He’s been the consummate pro in terms of a young guy that’s learning and growing. He understands the situation.”
He has little choice.
Clausen didn’t exactly turn any heads with his play last season, finishing with the league’s worst quarterback rating. He threw only three touchdown passes in 10 starts with nine interceptions. Carolina’s passing offense finished last in the league by a wide margin.
“Unfortunately for Jimmy it was a rough year last year,” Rivera said.
Rivera said the positive is there isn’t any jealousy in the quarterback room, only three guys trying to lift each other up.
“Jimmy has been the young quarterback that you would expect in terms of just waiting for his opportunities and staying focused,” Rivera said. “He’s been very supportive. He and Cam have a tremendous relationship. I really like the way that he and Derek Anderson and Cam seem to relate to one another. They’ve come together as a real solid group, and I’m real pleased with that.”
The Associated Press