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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Clausen bounces back


CHARLOTTE - Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen is friends with Cincinnati Bengals linebacker and fellow California native Frostee Rucker, but what happened Thursday wasn't the type of reunion Clausen had in mind.

Clausen saw his season flash before his eyes when Rucker sacked him during the teams' preseason meeting, but now he is recovered and ready for the Panthers' preseason finale.

"I thought it was a lot worse than it was. It scared me," Clausen said. "I got rolled up. Got a thigh bruise, and my knee buckled a little bit.

"It was just football, a guy trying to make a play - was one of my buddies, Frostee. That happens. I'm just lucky it wasn't too serious."

Clausen said he expects to play when the Panthers host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night at 8. With head coach Ron Rivera stopping short of naming rookie Cam Newton as the Panthers' opening-day starter, Clausen remains in contention.

"I'm trying to make plays each and every down," said Clausen, who has completed 17-of-29 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown with one interception in preseason play. "I try to go out each day and keep improving, keep getting quicker on my reads and drops and keep throwing the ball accurate."

Regardless of whether Clausen was battling for playing time, he still loves playing – even in the preseason.

"Anytime you can go out there and make plays and try to help your team win, it's exciting," he said. "Days are long watching film and being in meetings, so when you get to play in a game, it's a lot of fun for all the guys."

OTAH PROGRESSING: Right tackle Jeff Otah practiced for the third consecutive day Monday, an encouraging sign in his recovery from a knee injury.

"It's very encouraging," head coach Ron Rivera said. "When Jeff had the setback during camp after about the third or fourth day, we were concerned and we sat down and formulated a plan and we've stayed to it.

"He spent a lot of time with (strength and conditioning coach) Joe Kenn, spent a lot of time with (head athletic trainer) Ryan (Vermillion) and his folks and then he tried to spend as much time as he could with (offensive line) Coach (John) Matsko and (assistant line) Coach (Ray) Brown. He tried to be around the offense so his learning curve would not be as steep. He seems to have rebounded very well physically, and mentally he seems to be right on par."

Not all the news is good for the offensive line. Mackenzy Bernadeau, the likely starter at right guard, sat out practice with turf toe, and reserve guard Duke Robinson was out with a concussion. Geoff Schwartz, expected to compete for the right guard job entering training camp, continues to miss practice with a hip injury.


THE BALM FOR BALMER? When the San Francisco 49ers selected defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer in the first round of the 2008 draft, Balmer probably couldn't have imagined being waived three years later.

But Balmer, claimed by the Panthers off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks last week, is approaching it as a new lease on his football life.

"It was definitely a surprise, but I'm not the only person in the world who has gotten cut – Michael Jordan got cut one time," Balmer said. "It's all how you take it."

Balmer feels at home with the Panthers, and not just because he was born in North Carolina and played at the University of North Carolina. Balmer is in a 4-3 defensive scheme for the first time in his NFL career – the scheme that helped him play well enough in college to become a first-round pick in the first place.

"I'm excited about being in a true 4-3," Balmer said. "It definitely suits my strengths. We're going to penetrate, disrupt and fly around as opposed to two guys just sitting on the line. I feel like I'm more built for what we do here."

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