Still in learning mode, Clausen set to join Bears in training camp

H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com The Bears' Jimmy Clausen during mini training camp at the Walter Payton Center on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in Lake Forest.

LAKE FOREST – For a week now, Jimmy Clausen hasn't had time to do much of anything but digest the Bears playbook.

There have been no calls to his fiancée. None to his family. No time to himself. Instead, the former Notre Dame and Panthers quarterback who was signed just 10 days before this week's minicamp began has focused solely on familiarizing himself with the Bears offensive scheme, knowing it's the only way to revitalize his NFL career.

So far, so good.

Bears coach Marc Trestman announced Thursday that Clausen is expected to be in training camp next month in Bourbonnais. The 26-year-old Clausen was one of five quarterbacks to go through veteran minicamp, though it is expected the Bears will only take four to training camp.

After Trestman declined to address any possible roster moves Thursday afternoon, the Bears announced Thursday afternoon they had cut Jerrod Johnson, who had been in the mix, working primarily behind starter Jay Cutler, Jordan Palmer, Clausen and rookie David Fales.

Since being signed, Clausen spent long hours at the Bears practice facility. He stayed late into the night and arrived early in the morning to prepare for the limited chances he would have to run the Bears offense in practice. While Clausen locked in on the playbook, Trestman said he focused on how Clausen interacted with his fellow quarterbacks.

"As I've said many times, that (quarterbacks) room is hugely important – the chemistry, the karma, whatever you want to call it," Trestman said after the Bears final minicamp practice. "The communication has got to be good.

"Jimmy has done a very good job, very maturely fit in and taken the place of trying to learn and work to learn the offense."

While Clausen has leaned on Cutler, Palmer and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh to better understand an offense he refers to as "quarterback-friendly", Clausen made it his mission to soak in as much as he could on his own.

Clausen spent a lot of time this week observing as Palmer got more snaps after missing team drills during organized team activities due to a pectoral strain. Clausen called having five quarterbacks in the mix "unique", making it difficult to get as many snaps he may have otherwise.

But Clausen made sure to make the most of the opportunities he received, understanding all along what was at stake.

"There's a fine line of pressing myself and wanting to learn everything," Clausen said Thursday. "At the same time, it's going to take time. The biggest thing for me is hearing the play and spitting it out in the huddle and getting everybody lined up."

Clausen, who made his last NFL start in 2010, signed a one-year contract for $645,000 with no signing bonus. Clausen started 10 games for the Panthers as a rookie in 2010, but struggled, throwing only three touchdown passes while throwing nine interceptions in the 13 games he appeared in.

He refers to signing with the Bears a fresh start, but understood coming in that he would be walking into a tough situation. Of the five quarterbacks that also included sixth-round pick Fales, Clausen was the newest to the offense, forcing him to cram as much information as he could without knowing how long his stay with the Bears would last.

Before Trestman confirmed that Clausen would be one of the quarterbacks moving forward, Clausen still approached the situation as if his future was anything but secure.

"It's do or die per se," Clausen said. "You've just got to go out there and compete. I know how to play football – I've been doing it for my whole life. So I just have to learn the offense, go out there and complete and make plays."

Cutler said earlier this week that he can sympathize with what Clausen has had to go through.

"I feel for them because I know what it's like to being first year in the offense and trying to learn everything while everyone else is speeding ahead," Cutler said. 

That said, Cutler – who said he watched Clausen at Notre Dame – said Clausen has adjusted well to a crowded quarterbacks room after being in a "tough situation" with the Panthers. Since Clausen's arrival, Cutler said he sees a quarterback who keeps grinding away to get up to speed as quickly as he can.

"He's been working hard and I think he likes the opportunity he has here," Cutler said. "He was a little humbled going through the process of being on the streets and then getting picked up again. He's got a great attitude."

Clausen said he will spend the time between now and training camp continuing to soak in the playbook. In the short time he's been in Trestman's system, he said the verbage is starting to sink in, making it easier for understand what he is expected to do.

And while he will now likely compete with Palmer for the No. 2 job, Clausen remains thankful just to have the opportunity to compete after not seeing the field at all during the past three seasons with Carolina.

"That's just life in general – (being in the) right place at the right time," Clausen said. "That's not just football, it's business, it's life. It's about being in the right place, the right time and in the right situation."

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