- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Quarterback Jordan Palmer finally revealed the reasoning behind his lack of participation in team drills during Bears organized team activities Wednesday, saying he suffered a right shoulder strain that isn’t considered serious.
The Bears wrapped up the ninth of 10 OTA workouts inside the Walter Payton Center, and although Palmer participated during individual drills, he’s been held out of team work during recent practice sessions open to the media this offseason. Palmer expects to participate from June 17-19 during the club’s mandatory minicamp.
“It’s frustrating having to sit out a week or two, but it’ll be ready to go for the minicamp; just rehabbing, getting back into it,” Palmer said. “It’s a nothing deal, just frustrating. I’ve kind of had to back off for a week or two and rest my shoulder, getting it ready for minicamp.”
During Palmer’s inactivity, Chicago brought aboard former Carolina Panther and Notre Dame standout Jimmy Clausen last week, signing him to a one-year contract worth $645,000 to compete for the role of Jay Cutler’s primary backup. Prior to the club making the signing, Bears coach Marc Trestman pulled Palmer aside for a talk.
The coach told Palmer “really just to worry about my shoulder, getting myself back and to not get caught in anything else that’s going on,” he said. “That’s 100 percent of my focus right now, and everything else is stuff I can’t control. So I’m not focused on that.”
It’s not as if Palmer automatically fell behind in the competition for the No. 2 job.
Clausen visited the Bears at Halas Hall last Thursday and put together an impressive workout, personal interview and X’s and O’s session on the board for the coaches, which prompted the club to sign him. Still, as Palmer mentioned “he’s been in the system for 72 hours,” a fact Clausen admits is a little different than what he’s accustomed to.
“Competition brings out the best in people, and I’m looking forward to competing,” Clausen said. “The only way I can compete is if I learn the offense. So I’ve just got to keep speeding that up. It’s definitely exciting. It’s a great opportunity.”
As it stands now, Chicago’s roster at the quarterback position includes Cutler, Clausen, Palmer, Jerrod Johnson and David Fales, a rookie. Despite missing time recently, Palmer remains the front-runner for the No. 2 job. But the addition of Clausen raises the stakes for everyone involved in the derby; provided the quarterback gets up to speed quickly enough to make a mark.
The Bears plan to keep at least five quarterbacks on the roster through the end of minicamp, but afterward there’s a good chance the club starts to whittle down the position.
The team believes Clausen is fully healthy after undergoing surgery last September to repair a torn right labrum suffered during the 2013 preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition, the Bears are impressed with Clausen’s football smarts, mechanics and mental toughness; not to mention the fact he’s experienced despite being just 26.
A second-round pick by the Panthers, Clausen started 10 games as a rookie, but tossed just three touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 13 total contests. The next year, the Panthers used the No. 1 pick in the draft to select Cam Newton, and Clausen never took another regular-season snap in Carolina.
The Bears believe the way Clausen dealt with such adversity as a rookie, the shoulder injury, and Carolina’s selection of Newton improved the quarterback’s mental toughness.
“I think that’s how everything works in life: right place at the right time,” Clausen said. “Everything is about timing and opportunities, and when you get that opportunity you’ve got to flourish. So I’ve been working hard, trying to get my shoulder 100 percent and wait for my opportunity. I have it now.”
Clausen said he brings some lessons from his time in Carolina to the current situation in Chicago.
“The biggest thing is knowledge. Obviously, I had a rough rookie year,” Clausen said. “Just coming back my second and third year just to learn and watch the game from the sidelines, I did that at Notre Dame as well, and it just helped me grow and learn different things. They helped me out a lot, whether it was Cam, whether it was Derek Anderson or Coach [Mike] Shula, there was a lot of knowledge in that room. It helped me a lot because we would bounce things off each other. I learned a lot of knowledge, especially defensively [in the way teams defend offenses].”
Palmer, meanwhile, refuses to put much thought into the recent setback with his shoulder and how the addition of Clausen might affect his chances at winning the job as Cutler’s backup. In fact, Palmer says he’s been a Clausen fan “for a long time” because “we grew up in the same area.”
“In my position, I’ve had to compete every single year since I was in high school. I’ve had to compete for a job,” Palmer said. “I’ve had to beat somebody out or had to compete to keep my job. So whatever the situation is and how everybody looks at it, I’m just focused on each day. Regardless of how many guys [are] in the room, I’m in the same position. I need to go out here, and move the team when I’m in there, make good decisions, and everything will shake out here at the end of camp.”