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Out of options: Clausen to start at QB for Panthers vs. Bucs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The speed of the NFL and complex defenses were too much for Jimmy Clausen in his first stint as Carolina's starting quarterback.

Matt Moore's season-ending shoulder injury will give the rookie another shot to lead the woeful Panthers -- whether he's ready or not.

Coach John Fox told Clausen after practice Wednesday that he'll start ahead of fellow rookie Tony Pike on Sunday at Tampa Bay. Taking the helm of the NFL's worst offense for a second time, the Notre Dame product hopes to reverse ugly numbers that include one touchdown pass, four interceptions, two lost fumbles and a 48.0 passer rating.

"I'm just thrilled that Coach Fox and the coaching staff have confidence in me to go out and start against Tampa," Clausen said.

Fox didn't have many other options, as the Panthers (1-7) are set to become the first team in at least 20 years to have its three active QBs for a game all be rookies.

To make matter worse for a team averaging 11 points a contest, the Panthers are expected to be without injured running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton against the Bucs, too.

Moore's torn labrum in his throwing shoulder knocked him out of Sunday's 34-3 loss to New Orleans. Clausen replaced him and had an interception returned for a touchdown and was later yanked for Pike, a sixth-round pick.

Fox hedged on who would start on Monday, but ended the suspense after Wednesday's workout

"I didn't have a lot of doubts about that earlier this week, but we wanted to get the guys out here practicing, see how they went about their business," Fox said. "I thought Jimmy had an outstanding day."

Clausen, the 48th overall pick, hasn't played well on Sundays, though. He's completed only 46.8 percent of his passes as his adjustment to the NFL has taken longer than expected.

"I think the biggest thing is to just try to get comfortable," Clausen said. "The speed of the game is faster, just get comfortable with that. Get comfortable with what defenses are trying to do, what their disguises are. They are holding disguises a lot longer than in college. Just trying to understand their philosophy and get adjusted to the speed and just playing football."

Clausen has little to work with, and an anemic offense will even be more limited Sunday.

Mike Goodson, primarily a kick returner, said he's been told he'll start at running back with Williams (foot), Stewart (concussion) and Sutton (ankle) all missing practice Wednesday.

Williams hasn't played since Oct. 24, Stewart's concussion was so severe he spent Sunday night in the hospital and Sutton was on crutches Wednesday. The Panthers signed Josh Vaughan and claimed Andre Brown off waivers from Indianapolis on Tuesday for depth.

Carolina's QB depth is historically inexperienced. Rookie Armanti Edwards, a quarterback at Appalachian State who was converted to receiver, said he was the scout team QB in practice and will be the emergency No. 3 QB Sunday.

According to STATS LLC, no team has had three rookie quarterbacks on its gameday roster since the records began in 1991.

Clausen, who started three games beginning in Week 3 before Fox turned again to Moore, is hoping to cut down on mistakes and see the field better. Clausen has been criticized for a low delivery that's gotten passes batted down.

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"A few plays here or there, mistakes here or there," Clausen said. "Like on Sunday, me going the wrong way on the play. Thinking it's one thing and it's another thing. Just little things like that."

Meanwhile, Moore said he expects to have surgery within 10 days and won't be able to throw again for four to six months. The impending free agent said he hasn't had any talks with the team about whether he'll return after putting up his own miserable numbers in what's been a nightmare season for Carolina.

"It's tough. I don't know if there's a big old word that sounds nasty to describe it but it's bad," Moore said. "It's hard for everybody."

Notes: LB Nic Harris, a candidate to start with Dan Connor out for the season, was limited in practice with a sore knee. ... RT Jeff Otah, placed on injured reserve Tuesday because of lingering knee pain, blamed his slow recovery on trying to come back too soon from August surgery. "If I had to tell you what I think the setback was, maybe I tried to push it a little too hard," Otah said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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