QB Jimmy Clausen (Scott Cunningham/Getty)
The offensively challenged Panthers didn't need any more issues to deal with, but starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen suffered a concussion near the end of Sunday's 31-16 loss to the Buccaneers, according to coach John Fox. Fox wouldn't rule out Clausen for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, saying he's day-to-day.
Matt Moore sustained a concussion in the first week of the season against the Giants and still returned to play the following week against Tampa Bay, so it's possible Clausen could remain the starter. However, if Clausen doesn't make it back, fellow rookie Tony Pike would be next in line to make his first NFL start.
"I think we've not ruled him out by any stretch," Fox said of Clausen. "That will be in our medical people's hands, and we'll see how it goes."
Fox said he believes Clausen suffered the concussion late in Sunday's loss, possibly on Carolina's final offensive play, when Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib went crashing headfirst into the pile as Clausen ran a failed quarterback sneak.
That prompted wide receiver Steve Smith to take a retaliatory shot at Talib, earning him a 15-yard penalty. Talib was not penalized.
Smith did not apologize for the hit after saying he'd protect his quarterback "100 times out of 100 times."
Fox defended Smith's actions Monday, saying, "It shows a lot about Steve to take care of his teammate."
Fox said he'll turn in the play to the league office for review but wouldn't comment on whether he felt it was a cheap shot because he's not allowed to.
In other injury news, Fox said guard Travelle Wharton has turf toe and wide receiver Brandon LaFell has a concussion. He said both are listed as day-to-day.
The same goes for the four players who missed Sunday's game -- running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton and defensive end Greg Hardy.
Despite the loss, Clausen had one of his better games Sunday, completing 16 of 29 passes of 191 yards with no interceptions, but he still ranks 34th in the NFL in passer rating despite it being a 32-team league.
Fox described Clausen's play as good and said he showed "marked improvement."
"I thought we made improvements," Fox said. "After watching the tape, there were a couple things we could clean up, but it never usually goes perfectly. I thought he made some good third-down decisions. All in all, we had some mishaps early in the first half where we were maybe not quite as clean as we needed to be and had to use some timeouts. But all in all, I thought he performed pretty well."
If Clausen can't play, the Panthers could also add Brian St. Pierre from the practice squad. He was signed Friday.
Fox said the team signed St. Pierre "just to have a third quarterback in the building. I think it was helpful as far as getting acclimated to our offense. But we'll just assess that day to day."
--Steve Smith doesn't regret his unnecessary roughness penalty in the final seconds of the game when he delivered a shot to Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib after back-to-back quarterback sneaks failed to produce a touchdown.
Smith said it wasn't a case of being frustrated over another loss, but rather of protecting his quarterback. Smith felt Talib and safety Sean Jones got in a cheap shot on quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
"They went headfirst into Jimmy, and I followed," Smith said. "That wasn't frustration. Despite what people think, I'm a team player, and I will do it again. I will do it 10 out 10 times and 100 out of 100 times. (If) guys go in there headfirst, I'm going to follow. That's the fight in me. I'm not going to let whoever it is come in and get a cheap shot on my guy."
--The Panthers chose to run those quarterback sneaks with no timeouts with the final precious seconds ticking away and down 31-16.
"That worked out really well," coach John Fox said sarcastically. "In hindsight I wish we had done something else. We were in a little bit of a time issue there with no timeouts remaining, so you're a little limited. So we were not able to punch it in from the two inches, or whatever it was."
Clausen said the plays were called in from the sideline.
"We had a different call in there at first, and then we went to the quarterback sneak," Clausen said. "They just told me to tell the guys, 'If we don't make it the first time, get back on the ball and run it again.' It's hard in that situation because the defense is taught to just lay on all the guys and not get up so the offense can't get a play called. It was difficult."
--After being cut from two practice squads in the last week and a half, rookie Josh Vaughan scored Carolina's only touchdown of the game in his NFL debut.
Vaughan was cut from the Colts' practice squad Nov. 3 and then signed with the Bills' practice squad the following weekend.
But after attending a team meeting with the Bills on Nov. 8, Vaughan got a call from the Panthers, who signed him to the 53-man roster that afternoon following injuries to Jonathan Stewart and Tyrell Sutton. He arrived in Charlotte that night to begin preparation for the Bucs.
After just three practices with the Panthers, Vaughan carried three times for seven yards, including a 2-yard scoring run in the first half.
"It was a crazy week," Vaughan said. "But I mean, you never know what happens in life. You just kind of go with it. I just let God lead me through everything I do and just follow Him, and things end up paying off."
--The Panthers have had trouble defending tight ends all year. On Sunday, Tampa Bay tight ends Kellen Winslow and John Gilmore hurt them by catching a combined nine passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
"I don't want to take anything away from those guys," safety Charles Godfrey said. "When we have those guys, we have to know that those are some of the key things we have to stop. I don't think we did a great job today of that as a defense."
Winslow scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman in the third quarter to give the Bucs a 21-10 lead.
"It was a two-man look with me and Jon Beason," Winslow said. "I put a move on him, and Freeman threw it and I made the play."
Winslow also had 83 yards on four catches in the first meeting between the two teams, a 20-7 Bucs win.
--Linebacker Jon Beason wasn't real thrilled with the officiating in Sunday's game.
"I think there was some controversial calls in there, where it could have went either way," Beason said. "I really feel like we didn't get any of them, to be honest. Sometimes that's the way it is when you're on the road. You got to be flat-out better than the other team, and close calls, they're going to get (them)."
Beason was flagged for pass interference on one play that gave the Bucs a first down and led to a touchdown.
"Pass interference, or incomplete pass on third-and-10 in two-minute -- you get off the field," Beason said. "You know I think that stops them. We got off the field there, and it's seven points right there."
--K John Kasay has now hit on 13 of 15 field goals this season and is 8-for-10 from beyond 40 yards. His only misses this season are from 51 and 40 yards.
--QB Jimmy Clausen is day-to-day after receiving a concussion late in Sunday's game, according to coach John Fox. Clausen is the 34th-ranked quarterback in the NFL.
--RB DeAngelo Williams has missed the last three games with a sprained foot, and his status for Sunday's game against Baltimore is unknown. Coach John Fox said he would know more Wednesday when players return to practice.
--RB Jonathan Stewart missed Sunday's game with a concussion. Normally players sit out one week, but the hit on Stewart was pretty severe, so it's unclear if he'll be back this week against Baltimore. More will be known later in the week.
--RB Tyrell Sutton got the cast off his injured ankle, but he's not likely to play this week against Baltimore.
--RB Mike Goodson became the team's first 100-yard rusher of the season Sunday, but it's unclear if he will start against Baltimore. That largely depends on whether DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are ready to return to action.
--LG Travelle Wharton injured his foot Sunday, and he might miss this week's game against Baltimore.
--LG Mackenzy Bernadeau filled in for Travelle Wharton when Travelle Wharton when down with an injury.
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