Panthers’ Moore better, will start if healthy

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Carolina Panthers coach John Fox has no plans to turn to rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen just yet.

Three end zone interceptions and a lost fumble won’t be enough for Matt Moore to lose his starting job _ as long as he’s recovered from a concussion in time for Sunday’s home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fox said Moore was “feeling way better” on Monday, a day after he was knocked out of the game and sent to the hospital for evaluation following a hard, blind-side hit by Osi Umenyiora in the final minutes of the New York Giants' 31-18 win. But Fox said he may have suffered the concussion on the previous drive, when he lost a fumble after a hard hit by Mathias Kiwanuka, one of four times Moore was sacked.

“I think he landed on the back of his head on a fumble play,” Fox said. “But I don’t know that for a fact.”

It marked the second straight year of poor quarterback play in Week 1 for the Panthers. And just like last year, when Fox stuck with Jake Delhomme after five turnovers against Philadelphia, Fox provided no hesitation when asked if Moore would start against the Buccaneers if healthy.

“Yes,” Fox said, defusing talk the Panthers might quickly turn to Clausen.

But Moore, who didn’t speak to reporters Monday, will have to pass numerous mandated tests under stricter concussion rules to be allowed back on the field, making it possible Clausen could make his first NFL start in Week 2.

“I’m ready to go,” Clausen said. “Obviously, Matt is day to day right now. I’m going to prepare just like I prepared last week.”

The former Notre Dame star, who fell to the Panthers in the second round of the draft, threw two incomplete passes from his own end zone with Carolina trailing by two scores in the final moments of Sunday’s loss after Moore was sidelined.

“It was a tough situation, but that’s what we get paid to do,” Clausen said.

Fox said he’d be confident if Clausen had to play against Tampa Bay.

“That would be my expectation at any position with any backup,” Fox said. “He’s part of the football team and whether it’s injury or whatever, we expect them to step him and do a good job.”

Moore, who finished 4-1 as a starter last season when Delhomme was sidelined with a broken finger, got off to a poor start in his first to open a season. He tossed an ill-advised, floating pass into a sea of Giants players in the end zone on Carolina’s second possession for an interception.

His best work came on a 2-minute drive at the end of the first half, when he completed 4 of 5 passes for 50 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith to give Carolina a 16-14 halftime lead.

But the Panthers‘ only points in the second half came on a safety, and Moore threw two more picks in the end zone. He finished 14 of 33 for 182 yards and a passer rating of 32.6 while facing constant pressure.

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