Clausen enjoying being out of spotlight -- for now

Clausen enjoying being out of spotlight -- for now

Clausen enjoying being out of spotlight -- for now

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by MIKE CRANSTON / Associated Press

Associated Press

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 2:37 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Aside from the day a limousine was parked near the practice field and a few people jokingly asked if it was for him, Carolina rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen has avoided the spotlight in his first two months in the NFL.

Veteran QB Matt Moore's promotion to starter has garnered plenty of attention. The uncertain future of coach John Fox, the competition to replace departed defensive end Julius Peppers, linebacker Thomas Davis' knee injury and receiver Muhsin Muhammad's retirement have all produced more headlines than the Panthers' second-round pick.

It's new territory for Clausen, who has spent most of his life as the main attraction. Now he's simply a rookie running the second- and third-team offenses.

"It's great," Clausen insisted Monday. "This is what I was born to do, play the game of football. God has obviously gifted me with a special talent. I'm just trying to come out each and every day and just get better at all the little things."

After questions about his attitude caused him to slip from a sure top-10 pick in the draft all the way to the 48th selection. Clausen has spent most of the past month of voluntary workouts focusing solely on getting adjusted to the NFL game.

This is where Clausen was destined to be for some time.

He was a record-breaking high school star in California. He arrived at a news conference to announce his college coach in a limo. He was a cocky, three-year starter at Notre Dame before leaving school a year early

If Clausen is still peeved over his slide in the draft, he was hiding it well on Monday. He was focusing more on how he feels Carolina is a good fit because he's running the same pro-style offense that former coach Charlie Weis used at Notre Dame.

Panthers offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson worked in New England when Weis was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots.

"It's pretty much the same exact stuff," Clausen said. "Protections are a little different here, but I'm trying to pick it up as fast as I can. Just to be able to play fast when I'm out there, not thinking so much, but playing."

Clausen has been given a chance to worry just about football these days. Moore, who came on last year after Jake Delhomme was hurt, will go into training camp as the starter after Delhomme was released. While Clausen may eventually unseat him, now he's splitting second-team reps with Hunter Cantwell.

"He's a good quarterback. Still young, still got a lot to go, but he looks good back there in the pocket," Panthers veteran cornerback Chris Gamble said. "He kind of looks you off, little things like that. I haven't seen him throw an interception. He's been throwing the ball well and getting it to the receivers."

The 6-foot-2 Clausen's ability hasn't been questioned as much as his attitude and leadership abilities. There were a couple off-field issues at Notre Dame. There were whispers about overconfidence and blaming teammates.

So far in Carolina, however, Clausen is deferring to the veterans. He quickly grouped himself with sixth-round pick Tony Pike, currently Carolina's fourth-string QB, when talking to reporters.

"The team is great. All the rookies coming in, they're welcoming us with open arms," Clausen said. "I really appreciate it and I'm sure the rest of the rookies really appreciate it. It's a real close team and I'm seeing just a glimpse of it now."

The focus will eventually shift to Clausen, especially if Moore struggles in the preseason and there becomes a legitimate competition for the starting QB job. But for now Clausen is looking and acting just like another rookie trying to find his way without a limo driver.

"The tempo of the game, the tempo of my drops, the speed of the linebackers, the corners and the safeties, the speed of the rush and the speed of the receivers and tight ends, it's a step up from college," Clausen said. "I have to get used to that."

NOTES: RB Jonathan Stewart, who has been held out of all minicamp and voluntary workouts this spring following ankle surgery, did a series of conditioning sprints near the end of Monday's workout. ... The Panthers were met with intense heat for the morning session. "It's the Southern heat. I'm not really used to it," Clausen said. "It's pretty much the same weather as California, but the humidity is a little bit more intense." ... The Panthers have workouts scheduled through Wednesday, then will break until training camp begins July 28 in Spartanburg, S.C.

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