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NFL Notebook

Panthers happy Clausen available at No. 48

Notre Dame QB falls to 48th pick

Jets fans had the costumes out and the reactions ready when their team made a second-round selection yesterday. Jets fans had the costumes out and the reactions ready when their team made a second-round selection yesterday. (Jason Decrow/Associated Press)
Associated Press / April 24, 2010

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Instead of Heisman Trophy winners and All-Americans, the opening choices of last night’s second round of the NFL draft were Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold, Virginia cornerback Chris Cook, and UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price.

Quality players, but hardly headline makers.

Until Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen went to Carolina at No. 48 overall — more than 40 picks lower than some projected.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney spent much time yesterday trying to move up to take Clausen. Hurney couldn’t strike a deal, however, and when Arizona traded up to the 47th slot, Hurney acknowledged he was crushed, sure the Cardinals were going to take him.

“I could lie, but I won’t,’’ Hurney said.

Only the Cardinals passed on Clausen, too. It didn’t take Hurney long to pounce — shaking up Carolina’s newly shuffled quarterback depth chart with the team’s initial pick of the draft. Clausen will compete for the starting job with Matt Moore.

“You always say anything can happen,’’ Hurney said, smiling. “Wow, it happened. We think he’s an excellent quarterback and we feel extremely fortunate to get a quarterback of his ability with the 48th pick.’’

The 6-foot-3-inch, 222-pound Clausen was rated as a first-round pick — perhaps even in the top 10 — by many analysts.

Carolina didn’t hesitate.

As he continued to plummet yesterday, Clausen stopped watching the draft with his family in Palm Springs, Calif. He was playing pool with his friends when his brother handed him the phone. Panthers coach John Fox was at the other end.

“He told me he was trying to get up to the 33d pick,’’ Clausen said. “He was just really excited to have me on the team. I told him I can’t wait to get there and go to work.’’

“Coach Fox told me he said it was the same exact system I’ve played in the last three years,’’ Clausen said. “I’m really excited about that.’’

Name recognition
Clausen, the first Notre Damer chosen this year, kicked off a spurt of more recognizable selections — and three All-Americans. The first Southern Cal player, safety Taylor Mays, went to San Francisco, followed by Alabama cornerback-kick returner Javier Arenas, and Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, the Heisman runner-up.

Wideout Golden Tate, Clausen’s college teammate, went 60th to Seattle.

Other notables on Day 2: Kansas City got a prime kick returner and receiving threat in Dexter McCluster of Mississippi; Alabama’s 350-pound All-America defensive tackle, Terrence Cody, went to Baltimore; and Cincinnati selected Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who was arrested for DUI in December. The Bengals have a history of bringing in players with off-field issues.

“That was the only incident on my record,’’ Dunlap said. “Pretty much, I told them that was my first and last incident. I learned from it. I apologized to everyone.’’

Colt McCoy’s slide finally stopped in Cleveland. McCoy was selected in the third round with the No. 85 overall pick by the Browns, who have spent the past decade searching for a quarterback to take them to their first Super Bowl.

The Browns had two earlier chances to get McCoy before grabbing the Longhorns’ four-year starter.

“My heart skipped a beat,’’ McCoy said of getting the phone call from new Browns president Mike Holmgren. “I am where I’m supposed to be, and that’s Cleveland. It’s a blue-collar town, and that’s how I am.’’

Mays can’t go home
Friends and fans in Seattle weren’t the only ones to notice new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t draft Mays, the hometown hero and USC star.

Mays was picked in the second round by San Francisco and passed over by his old college coach.

“I definitely thought from the relationship that we have — from the things that he had told me about what I needed to be, what the draft process is, things that I needed to do — I felt he told me the complete opposite of the actions that he took, which was definitely alarming,’’ Mays said during a conference call.

Not only was the former star at Seattle’s O’Dea High School miffed Carroll didn’t draft him, Mays was further frustrated that the Seahawks instead drafted Texas safety Earl Thomas. Thomas is younger, less experienced, and less familiar to Carroll.

“There were things he told me I needed to do as a football player versus the actions he took and who he took as a safety,’’ Mays said. “I understand it’s a business, but with it being a business, honesty is all I’m asking for.’’

Rams stick to plan
The Rams fielded plenty of bids for the first pick of the second round, No. 33 overall, but stood pat and selected Saffold.

Needing a blocker for quarterback Sam Bradford, the first overall pick the previous night, the Rams went for an experienced player who started for four seasons with the Hoosiers.

“Oh man, it was a long night,’’ Saffold said. “Your heart’s racing the entire time and I’m just glad St. Louis called. I didn’t know how much longer I could have taken it.’’

Bradford held up a No. 8 jersey at a news conference in St. Louis that was attended by his parents and Lucia Rodriguez, one-half of the brother-sister ownership team. He’ll hit the field next weekend at a three-day rookie minicamp.

Allen tied to ex-Eagles
Nate Allen is going to hear the names of Donovan McNabb and Brian Dawkins in his sleep.

The Eagles used the 37th pick to select the South Florida defensive back in the second round. That pick belonged to Washington until the Eagles sent McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, to the Redskins this month. If that’s not enough pressure on Allen, he’s replacing Dawkins, a four-time All-Pro.

The Eagles have sought a free safety since allowing Dawkins to sign with Denver as a free agent last year.

Tebow: Thanks, Coach
Tim Tebow looked out the foggy window as his weather-delayed flight dropped through the dark clouds and descended into Englewood, Colo., yesterday.

He saw the snow-covered city, the snarled traffic and thought, there’s just no better place he could have landed to begin his NFL career.

The southpaw shotgun quarterback who helped Florida win two national titles said he’s determined to repay Broncos coach Josh McDaniels for making him the surprise 25th overall pick.

“I can’t be more thankful for him deciding to take me,’’ Tebow said at his introductory news conference. “That will be one of my biggest goals is proving him right and making him proud.’’

No. 88 for Bryant
Trading up to pick Dez Bryant in the first round Thursday was only one way Cowboys owner Jerry Jones showed his affection for the receiver. He went a step further by giving Bryant No. 88, made famous in Dallas by star wideouts Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin.

“I know it means a lot to Mr. Jerry Jones,’’ Bryant said. “I’m excited to wear that. I’m very excited he thinks that I can be a great player.’’

1st-round ratings soar
The ratings for ESPN’s first NFL draft in prime time were up 23 percent from last year. The cable network said it had a 5.3 rating and 7.2 million viewers for Thursday night’s first round. It’s the most-viewed first round in the network’s 31-year history . . . Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL can increase the six-game suspension for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if new evidence of misbehavior emerges that violates its personal conduct policy. “The penalty still has some flexibility,’’ Goodell said . . . A Nevada jury found a six-time convicted felon guilty of kidnapping, robbing, and beating former NFL receiver Javon Walker two years ago. Walker was found unconscious a block off the Las Vegas Strip. Deshawn Lamont Thomas, 42, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. Thomas faces up to life in prison. Walker, 31, is a free agent . . . Kelci Stringer, the widow of the former Vikings Pro Bowl offensive tackle, has partnered with the NFL and the University of Connecticut to open the Korey Stringer Institute at UConn’s Neag School of Education. Stringer died during training camp in 2001 at age 27 from complications due to heat stroke.

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