CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just when rookie Jimmy Clausen and the Carolina offense finally showed some spark, albeit in another loss, the Panthers were hit with more bad news as Clausen's status for next week is uncertain because of a concussion.
The Panthers were seething Monday over the play that may have gotten Clausen hurt. They claim a couple of Tampa Bay players recklessly dove into the pile as Clausen was stuffed shy of the goal line on fourth down on Carolina's final offensive play Sunday in the Buccaneers' 31-16 win.
Receiver Steve Smith said Aqib Talib and Sean Jones "went head first into Jimmy." Replays showed Talib appeared to hit Clausen with a helmet-to-helmet hit. Smith then shoved Talib and was given a 15-yard penalty.
"Despite what people might think, actually I am a team player and I'll do it again, and I'll do it 10 out of 10 times, 100 out of 100 times," Smith said of the penalty. "Guys going in there, he goes head first in there, so I'm going to follow."
Coach John Fox declined to comment Monday for fear of being fined, but did say they would send in a tape of the play to the league office. Fox also said he wasn't certain Clausen sustained the concussion on that play, but believed that's when it happened.
Fox said Clausen, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 191 yards, no touchdowns and no turnovers, didn't show signs of a concussion until after the game. Clausen attended meetings Monday but was not made available to reporters.
"I talked to him after the game and he had a little headache," backup quarterback Tony Pike said. "He said he was trying to watch tape (Sunday night) and the headache got a little worse."
It could leave Carolina (1-8) in an even bigger predicament than a week earlier, when Clausen was promoted to starter after Matt Moore's season-ending right shoulder injury.
If Clausen can't go Sunday against Baltimore, and Fox would only says he's "day to day," the Panthers would turn to rookie Tony Pike, a sixth-round pick who has thrown 12 passes this season.
"Always got to be ready," Pike said.
Behind Pike is another rookie, Armanti Edwards, who played quarterback at Appalachian State but was converted to receiver when he was drafted in the third round. He didn't take snaps at QB for Carolina until last week when he ran the scout team.
The Panthers signed Brian St. Pierre, who has thrown five passes in his NFL career, to the practice squad on Friday.
Fox wouldn't say if they'd try to sign another QB.
"We had Brian St. Pierre around last week, just to have a third quarterback in the building," Fox said. "I think it was helpful as far as getting acclimated to our offense, but we'll just assess that day to day."
It's been that kind of season for the Panthers, who are now tied for Buffalo for the worst record in the league.
Clausen's injury spoiled his best performance in four starts, all losses. While the Panthers scored just one touchdown -- they have nine this season -- they moved the ball better. The second round pick from Notre Dame avoided major mistakes and looked more poised in the pocket.
"I thought he made some good third-down decisions," Fox said of Clausen. "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."
Clausen was also helped by fourth-string running back Mike Goodson, who rushed for 100 yards in Carolina's best performance on the ground this season amid numerous injuries.
Still, it wasn't enough to lead Carolina to its second win, with a leaky defense to blame. The Panthers gave up 421 yards, including 186 on the ground.
Two weeks ago, the Panthers were ranked fourth in the league in total defense. They've dropped to 14th after allowing 829 yards in two weeks to New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
"The opponent has a little something to do with it," Fox said.
Now the Panthers have uncertainty again at QB -- and at receiver and the offensive line. Left guard Travelle Wharton was knocked out of Sunday's game with what Fox called turf toe and was in a protective boot Monday.
No. 3 receiver Brandon LaFell left with a concussion.
But despite all the losses and injuries, the Panthers claim they haven't quit. And Smith's aggressive reaction on the final play Sunday may prove that.
"I don't see really a way I can comment on that, other than it shows a lot about Steve to take care of his teammate," Fox said.