After a brilliant high school career, Jimmy Clausen was one of the most sought-after quarterbacks in the nation.
Then, after his three years at Notre Dame, he was drafted in the second round by the Carolina Panthers in 2010.
The Bears, however, didn't have much competition for Clausen's services when they signed him last week to compete for a backup job behind Jay Cutler. There wasn't a lot of interest in Clausen around the league when he became a free agent in March after three years of inactivity playing behind Cam Newton in Carolina.
But Clausen seems to be a good fit for the Bears, especially with current No. 2 quarterback Jordan Palmer idled since last week by a sore chest muscle he believes will be fine by next week's mandatory minicamp.
Being an afterthought is a new experience for Clausen.
He has the least experience in the Bears' system of the five quarterbacks on the roster, so he's on a crash course to master a passing offense that is far from basic. But the 26-year-old is approaching the latest phase of his career with the perspective that comes with experience, good and bad.
"If you're a free agent, you're going to get thrown into a situation where you have to learn faster to get up to speed so you can compete," Clausen said Wednesday after his second Bears OTA (organized team activity) practice.
"It's a big challenge for me, (but) the (other) quarterbacks are helping me out a lot, and the coaching staff's doing a great job helping me, just trying to get me up to speed as soon as possible."
After struggling through a rookie season when he was thrust into the starting job and suffered the typical growing pains -- 3 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions, 58.4 passer rating and 33 sacks in 10 starts -- Clausen watched 2011 first overall pick Newton take the Panthers' QB job and run with it.
Clausen has not thrown a pass in a regular-season game since his rookie season. And in the final preseason game last year he suffered a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder and spent the season on injured reserve.
He said he has tried to learn from every experience.
"Obviously I had a rough rookie year," Clausen said. "But just coming back for my second and third years, just to learn and watch the game from the sidelines -- I did that at Notre Dame, as well -- it just helped me grow and learn different things.
"Just sitting next to (veteran backup quarterback) Derek Anderson during the games, it helped me a lot because we would bounce things off each other. 'Hey, what'd you see there? I saw this, I think this is what they're doing.'
"We just went back and forth, and I learned a lot, especially (about what opponents were trying to do) defensively."
Clausen's shoulder injury required a procedure that was performed by orthopedic surgeon to the stars Dr. James Andrews on Sept. 11. While in the initial phase of rehab, Clausen returned to Notre Dame for more learning: He finished the final three hours needed for his degree.
"Then I went back home (to California), and I've been working out, rehabbing every day and just waiting for this opportunity," he said. "Now I just have to keep grinding and keep competing."
The battle for the Bears' backup quarterback positions should have plenty of storylines, featuring veterans Clausen and Palmer, rookie David Fales and first-year player Jerrod Johnson.
"Competition brings out the best in people," said Clausen, who knows he has some catching up to do. "I'm looking forward to competing, but the only way I can compete is if I learn the offense."
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