NFL

QB Jimmy Clausen back at practice for Panthers

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)

Just as Jake Delhomme moved into position to possibly start against Carolina, his former team's uncertain quarterback situation took a new turn.

There was some good news, some bad and the frightening prospect that behind rookie Jimmy Clausen could be a practice-squad QB signed this week.

Clausen practiced a day after being cleared following a concussion that knocked him out of Sunday's loss to Baltimore. But Clausen was whisked into a meeting with doctors after the workout and must still make steady cognitive progress before getting the final clearance to play Sunday at Cleveland.

''I'm still going through evaluations,'' Clausen said Wednesday. ''I felt pretty good but there are still things that we need to do here for me to get cleared before I can play.''

If the doctors sign off, he'll regain command of the NFL's worst offense for the league's worst team.

''I think it would be safe to assume,'' coach John Fox said when asked if Clausen would start if healthy. ''I thought he had a good practice.''

Good thing, because the Brian St. Pierre experiment has taken a detour.

St. Pierre is showing the effects of being a stay-at-home dad until the Panthers signed him 10 days before he started against the Ravens. Pierre could only hand the ball off in Wednesday's practice, saying the level of pain in his throwing shoulder ''on a scale of one to 10 is probably a seven.''

''On the long throw to David Gettis, I think that was the final straw,'' St. Pierre said.

That 88-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter got the Panthers within a touchdown, but their hopes were dashed when the 30-year-old St. Pierre became the first NFL QB in seven years to throw interceptions returned for touchdowns on consecutive plays.

St. Pierre all but ruled himself out against the Browns.

''Right now the pain is telling me no way,'' he said.

Behind him is rookie Tony Pike, the sixth-round draft pick who was limited in practice Wednesday with what Fox said was a sore throwing arm. Fox provided no details on how he got hurt without playing, and Pike didn't speak to reporters.

That leaves Keith Null, signed to the practice squad Tuesday. Null started four games as a rookie for St. Louis late last season, throwing three touchdowns and nine interceptions.

''They haven't said anything,'' Null said about his prospects of being promoted to the 53-man roster. ''As of right now I'm on the practice squad and I'm just out here doing what I can do and trying to get better.''

It says something for the plight of Carolina (1-9) that the best QB scenario is to get back a rookie who is 0-4 as a starter, has completed 48.6 percent of his passes and has one touchdown pass and four interceptions.

''The nice thing about Jimmy is he's been here all year and he understands the cadence and the audibles and the reads and everything a little bit better than Brian did,'' left tackle Jordan Gross said. ''I thought Brian did an outstanding job coming in from the street, as they say, and starting 10 days later against the Ravens. That's as tough as it gets and he did a really nice job with that role.

''But, yeah, I would assume it would be Jimmy (starting) as long as everything works out fine.''

The latest twist in Carolina's QB saga came the same day Delhomme took most of the snaps with the first team in Cleveland, with Colt McCoy nursing an ankle injury.

Delhomme, who hasn't started since Week 1 because of his own ankle problems, was released in the offseason after going 58-40 as a seven-year starter for the Panthers.

But Delhomme insisted he has no satisfaction in seeing Carolina struggle without him.

''It's sad to me. I feel sorry for Matt (Moore) having a (shoulder) injury when I know he was expecting to do big things this year,'' Delhomme said. ''I don't know Jimmy at all. Certainly he has had to play. And then Brian St. Pierre was called up and what a situation for him.''

Delhomme, who led Carolina to the Super Bowl in the 2003 season, declined to take any shots at his staggering former employer, who is paying him $12.5 million this season in guaranteed money.

General manager Marty Hurney flew to Chicago in March to tell Delhomme's agent he was being let go following a miserable 18-interception season. Delhomme found out in a phone call from Fox.

''To get fired,'' Delhomme said, ''it was the classiest way.''

Notes: RB Jonathan Stewart and WR Brandon LaFell returned to practice following concussions. ... LG Travelle Wharton (toe) remained sidelined. ... Also missing practice Wednesday were CB Chris Gamble (personal), CB Captain Munnerlyn (shoulder), RB Tyrell Sutton (ankle), S Jordan Pugh (hamstring) and S Marcus Hudson (ankle).

Tagged: Panthers, Browns, Jake Delhomme, Keith Null, Brian St. Pierre, Jimmy Clausen

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