SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Whenever quarterback Jimmy Clausen trotted onto the practice field at training camp last year, a fresh face toting around great expectations, he surely could feel the curious stares of the crowd gravitate toward him.
This year, with No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton trotting out alongside him, Clausen recognizes that all eyes are on Newton, his colleague and competitor.
In both cases, however, Clausen has continued to keep his eyes on the prize.
"He's going to make plays; I'm going to make plays. I'm going to make mistakes; he's going to make mistakes," Clausen said. "It's a learning process for the both of us, and we're just having a lot of fun with it and trying to speed up that process."
Clausen does have one thing that Newton doesn't: the experience of last season. It was a struggle to be sure, with Clausen winning just one game after being thrust into the starter's role as a rookie, but he believes the experience still can serve him well.
"It's different having a year under my belt, having started 10 games and gaining a lot of experience through playing time last year," Clausen said. "It has helped me to this point, and I think it's going to help me all season. The one difference is we're learning a whole new offense now."
Clausen and Newton are on even footing when it comes to having exposure to the offense being installed by the Panthers' new coaching staff. Both were able to pick up a playbook when the NFL lockout was lifted for a few hours on April 29, a helpful step but nothing like what they're picking up now that they're in camp with their coaches and teammates.
"I got a playbook the day we were allowed to, and I've just been looking at it as much as I can," Clausen said. "It's different looking at it by yourself than being with coaches and being able to ask questions, but it was good to get a foundation.
"Then with those two weeks when we had players' OTAs, that really helped, because all the guys got together and we could talk through some of the questions that we had, which was nice."
Clausen studied himself on tape throughout the offseason, knowing he needed to improve if he hoped to keep the starting job, regardless of what Carolina decided to do at quarterback in the offseason. He was in Charlotte, eating dinner with friends after a round of golf, when the Panthers used their first draft pick on a quarterback for the second consecutive season.
"As soon as he got drafted, I texted him and congratulated him," Clausen said. "He's a teammate. He's a part of the Carolina Panthers."
Clausen underwent foot surgery shortly after last season and spent most of the offseason in his native California. He worked out with Panthers wide receiver David Gettis, a fellow Californian also competing for a starting job.
"He handled it like a professional," Gettis said. "Just work on yourself - that's all you can do. You can't really worry about what people are saying about you. You just work on your craft individually and just make sure you're the best player you can possibly be."
That's exactly what Clausen is doing, and he's doing it in conjunction with Newton rather than in opposition to him.
"The better we get, the better the offense and the team gets," Clausen said. "It's going great. Me and Cam get along real well. The quarterback room is a great room. We're starting to get a little friendship and a bond going. That's good."