CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Jimmy Clausen stated from the start his goal of playing sooner rather than later, though Sunday's circumstances weren't quite what Clausen had in mind.
"I didn't expect it to be like that, but you have to be ready," Clausen said. "I'm a play away from being thrown in there."
That play, a hard hit that resulted in a concussion for starter Matt Moore late in the Panthers' 31-18 loss at the New York Giants, led to Clausen's first two NFL snaps.
Now, the heralded rookie out of Notre Dame is preparing for the possibility that he'll make his first NFL start when the Panthers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Head coach John Fox declared Moore as "day-to-day" on Monday, saying Moore would start if healthy while adding that Moore felt much better Monday than he did Sunday.
"He seemed all right," Clausen said of Moore. "A little sore, a little tired, but he's a fighter, so he's going to be back as soon as he can be."
While Moore undoubtedly wants a chance to make amends for Sunday's showing, the Panthers will proceed with caution. Fox said the Panthers have been ahead of the curve when it comes to giving appropriate consideration to the dangers of concussions, and the NFL has followed suit within the last year.
If Moore does need to be held out, Clausen will welcome the opportunity.
"It's exciting," Clausen said. "Obviously that's what you come in this league to do, to get out there and play and help your team win.
"I'm ready to go. Obviously Matt is day-to-day right now, and I'm going to prepare just like I prepared last week."
Clausen may be better prepared than most rookies to take on such a challenge, so early. Fox said the Panthers would use the entire playbook if Clausen is called into duty, a plan made easier by the fact that Clausen played in a similar system at Notre Dame.
"It's all similar stuff, whether I'm in there, Matt is in there or Tony (Pike) is in there," Clausen said. "We've got to run the same offense, and it's our job to learn the offense and go out there and execute.
"Coming in, I knew Matt was the veteran guy, but that we probably had the youngest quarterback group in the entire league. Being one play away and Tony being two plays away, you just have to get up to speed as quick as you can. Obviously you want a veteran guy out there to try to show you the ropes, but that's our situation."
If Clausen is called upon, his teammates appear to have confidence in him. Clausen is still is rookie to be sure, but he did play nearly as much as Moore in the preseason.
"I think he's a very good quarterback," said tight end Gary Barnidge, who had a 50-yard reception courtesy of Clausen in the preseason. "I think he's grasped the system very well, and he's made great throws in practice. He's gotten a lot of reps."
Barnidge echoed Fox's take on Moore, saying he appeared to be in a much more cheerful mood Monday. But regardless of which quarterback starts Sunday, the offense wants to give Panthers fans more to cheer.
"We didn't execute well enough in the pass game," Fox said. "There are a lot of moving parts to the pass game, and we had some issues in a lot of different areas – whether it was protection, routes or where we went with the ball. We've got to do a better job – we've got to do a better job coaching it and executing it."