CHARLOTTE – When Chris Clark as an NFL newcomer sat in the stands in his native New Orleans watching Trai Turner play high school football, he couldn’t have envisioned a day when they would line up beside each other some Sunday.
But Clark literally envisioned it in a recent dream, and now it’s nearly a reality.
“Trai went to high school with my wife’s little brother, so I used to watch him play,” said Clark, an offensive tackle who signed with the Panthers on Wednesday. “I actually had a dream about being here, about playing next to Trai.
“Things work out sometimes.”
The Panthers, repeatedly bitten by the injury bug along the offensive line, certainly hope things work out with Clark, a veteran of eight seasons with experience as a starter at left and right tackle.
Clark for his part – no offense to Turner – is arguably even more excited about playing on the same field with another Panther.
“I’m embracing it all, and it’s awesome to get a chance to be here and play for a quarterback like Cam,” Clark said. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do with how electric he is. I appreciate blocking for a guy like that.”
Time will tell if Clark gets on the field with Newton before he teams with Turner, who is currently in the concussion protocol. Turner might not be ready to play Sunday at the Falcons, but will Clark be ready after not spending any part of the offseason with an NFL team?
With right tackle Daryl Williams joining left tackle Matt Kalil on injured reserve, he might have to be ready. Taylor Moton is slated to start at left tackle for the second consecutive week, with Corey Robinson – acquired in a September 1 trade – and now Clark the only other tackles on the 53-man roster.
“I wasn’t in OTAs, training camp, any of that, so it was pretty tiresome today but I got it done. And Coach (Matsko) looked out for me – he didn’t kill me today,” Clark said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be out there today, if the physicals would be done in time. Practice started at 11, and I finished everything at about 10:50 so I just ran out there and tried to get it done.
“I’m dialed in. I’ll take a shower and dial right back in. I told my wife, ‘I probably won’t call you tonight.’ I’ll get it done.”
Clark’s wife, who stayed back in New Orleans, is pregnant, one of the reasons he stayed patient after the Texans didn’t re-sign him in March. He thought a Houston reunion was possible and actually had just finished a workout with the Texans when a Panthers team that couldn’t afford to be patient came calling.
“The thing about Chris is that he’s a veteran guy that’s done it. He’s started a bunch of games in this league, and he’s in great shape,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “We felt really good about bringing in a guy that does things the right way, and we had a lot of good reports about him talking to people who know him. He got an opportunity to work today and looked pretty good.”
Clark said he “jumped on” the opportunity when the Panthers reached out.
“The guys helped me a ton today,” Clark said. “I’ll just try to build around the camaraderie these guys have already, and it’s tight – you can tell. They’re close-knit. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
View photos from the Panthers practice as they prepare for their game against the Falcons.