Jimmy Clausen scrambles from the pocket in Saturday night's 9-3 loss to the New York Jets. (Photo by John Clark)
CHARLOTTE – Rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen was back on the practice field Tuesday for the Carolina Panthers, but admitted that his surgically repaired big right toe could be a problem all season.
Clausen underwent surgery in early January to repair two torn ligaments in his toe, an injury the Notre Dame product sustained last Sept. 19 in a game against Michigan State.
“I still don’t feel 100 percent right now,” Clausen said Tuesday, one day after sitting out practice to rest the toe. “The doctor said it’s probably going to be until after the season until I feel 100 percent. I’m going to have to play through some aches and pains until the season is over. That’s just the nature of football.”
To Clausen it’s no big deal.
He played through pain most of last season after he was blitzed by Spartan linebacker Eric Gordon and ducked down on one knee. As Gordon came crashing in, Clausen's toe was bent back at an awkward angle.
He was later diagnosed with turf toe, but the injury proved to be more serious.
In fact, renowned foot specialist Mark Myerson, who performed the operation on Clausen’s toe, told ESPN's Tom Friend shortly afterward he was impressed with Clausen’s toughness, saying, “It's a testament to him that he played with this type of injury. How he managed is beyond me. I can only imagine what he'll be like when he's fixed.''
The toe is fixed, but as with a lot of injuries won’t be completely healed until it's allowed to rest.
If Clausen doesn’t play much this year it could heal quicker. As of now he's scheduled to do plenty of clipboard-holding with Matt Moore slated to be the starter. However, if Clausen is pressed into duty as the No. 2 quarterback, he may have to wait until after the 2010 season to rest it up.
“I’m doing all right today,” Clausen said. “After a game the toe is going to be a little sore, but it feels pretty good today.”
Through two games, Clausen has a quarterback rating of 35, but he’s faced two very tough defenses in the Ravens and Jets, both known for holding little back in the preseason when it comes to their blitz packages.
On top of that, the Panthers didn’t game plan for either opponent.
“You know, it is tough,” Clausen said. “That’s the tough part about the preseason. You really don’t game plan much so you just got to go in and watch tape on your own and get with the other quarterbacks and coaches and try doing your own game-planning -- as much as you can. But to be honest that’s the hard part about preseason. Playing good defenses like that, you don’t get to prepare for them.”
Still, coach John Fox, who’s growing increasingly annoyed with folks outside the organization taking shots at the team’s lackluster passing game during the preseason, said he thinks Clausen has been “very good” so far.
The Panthers clearly haven’t delved much into their playbook at this point, and are holding back some plays for the regular season.
“I've been pleased with both our quarterbacks, really all our quarterbacks,” Fox said. “Some of them have gotten more opportunities than others. A lot of times when you don't have success early on in the passing game, it all goes to the quarterback. But I've been pleased with how they've played. I think they've improved each week and I'm not as concerned about that as maybe some people on the outside.”
Still, Clausen said there’s plenty of room for improvement after watching himself on tape against the Jets.
“I wish I could have some throws back, especially that last one, the interception,” he said. “But that is how football goes. The Jets are a great defense.”
He believes that facing teams like the Ravens and Jets will help him develop quicker.
“It’s real good for a young guy like me to play against a defense like that, seeing pressures each and every down,” Clausen said. “That’s the best type of team to see. It was a real good experience playing against them. I learned a lot from the tape and I’m trying to get better each and every day as I move forward.”
NOTES: In other news, OT Jordan Gross and SS Sherrod Martin returned to practice. However, the Panthers were without three of their top four cornerbacks as Richard Marshall (knee), Captain Munnerlyn (calf) and C.J. Wilson (head) all sat out, leaving free agent Brian Witherspoon and rookies Robert McClain and R.J. Stanford more reps. OT Jeff Otah remains out, as do DEs Tyler Brayton and Hilee Taylor, LBs Thomas Davis and Quinton Culberson and S Aaron Francisco.