Fox: 'Safe to assume' Panthers rookie QB Clausen will start

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just as Jake Delhomme moved into position to possibly start against the Carolina Panthers, his former team's uncertain quarterback situation took a new turn Wednesday.

There was some good news, some bad and the frightening prospect that behind rookie Jimmy Clausen could be a practice-squad QB signed this week.

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Clausen practiced one day after being cleared following a concussion that knocked him out of Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But Clausen was whisked into a meeting with doctors after the workout and still must make steady cognitive progress before receiving the final clearance to play Sunday at Cleveland.

"I'm still going through evaluations," Clausen said. "I felt pretty good, but there are still things that we need to do here for me to get cleared before I can play."

If the doctors sign off, he'll regain command of the NFL's worst offense for the league's worst team.

"I think it would be safe to assume," Panthers coach John Fox said when asked if Clausen would start if healthy. "I thought he had a good practice."

Good thing, because the Brian St. Pierre experiment has taken a detour.

St. Pierre is showing the effects of being a stay-at-home dad until the Panthers signed him 10 days before he started against the Ravens. Pierre could only hand the ball off in Wednesday's practice, saying the level of pain in his throwing shoulder "on a scale of one to 10 is probably a seven."

"On the long throw to David Gettis, I think that was the final straw," St. Pierre said.

That 88-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter not only pulled the Panthers within a touchdown, but their hopes were dashed when the 30-year-old St. Pierre became the first NFL quarterback in seven years to throw interceptions returned for TDs on consecutive plays.

St. Pierre all but ruled himself out against the Browns.

"Right now, the pain is telling me no way," he said.

Behind him is rookie Tony Pike, a sixth-round pick who was limited in practice Wednesday with what Fox said was a sore throwing arm. Fox provided no details on how Pike got was without playing, and the rookie didn't speak to reporters.

That leaves Keith Null, signed to the practice squad Tuesday. Null started four games as a rookie for the St. Louis Rams late last season, throwing for three touchdowns with nine interceptions.

"They haven't said anything," Null said on his prospects of being promoted to the 53-man roster. "As of right now I'm on the practice squad and I'm just out here doing what I can do and trying to get better."

It says something for the plight of Carolina (1-9) that the best QB scenario is to get back a rookie who is 0-4 as a starter, has completed 48.6 percent of his throws and has one touchdown pass and four interceptions.

"The nice thing about Jimmy is he's been here all year and he understands the cadence and the audibles and the reads and everything a little bit better than Brian did," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "I thought Brian did an outstanding job coming in from the street, as they say, and starting 10 days later against the Ravens. That's as tough as it gets, and he did a really nice job with that role.

"But, yeah, I would assume it would be Jimmy (starting) as long as everything works out fine."

The latest twist in Carolina's QB saga came the same day that Delhomme took most of the snaps with the first team in Cleveland, with rookie Colt McCoy nursing an ankle injury.

Delhomme, who hasn't started since Week 1 because of his own ankle problems, was released by the Panthers during the offseason after going 58-40 as a seven-year starter.

But Delhomme insisted he has no satisfaction in seeing Carolina struggle without him.

"It's sad to me. I feel sorry for Matt (Moore) having a (shoulder) injury when I know he was expecting to do big things this year," Delhomme said. "I don't know Jimmy at all. Certainly he has had to play. And then Brian St. Pierre was called up, and what a situation for him."

Delhomme, who led Carolina to the Super Bowl in the 2003 season, declined to take any shots at his staggering former employer, who is paying him $12.5 million this season in guaranteed money.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney flew to Chicago in March to tell Delhomme's agent the quarterback was being let go following a miserable 18-interception season. Delhomme found out in a phone call from Fox.

"To get fired," Delhomme said, "it was the classiest way."

Notes:Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart and WR Brandon LaFell returned to practice following concussions. ... LG Travelle Wharton (toe) remained sidelined. ... Also missing practice Wednesday were CB Chris Gamble (personal), CB Captain Munnerlyn (shoulder), RB Tyrell Sutton (ankle), S Jordan Pugh (hamstring) and S Marcus Hudson (ankle).

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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