Despite rumors, Clausen's freshman season not in question - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Despite rumors, Clausen's freshman season not in question

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Jimmy Clausen did undergo elbow surgery on his throwing arm, the procedure will have no effect on the Notre Dame freshman quarterback's plans to play this season.

"Jimmy Clausen will be ready to play on August 6 (the opening day of fall camp) like everyone else," Brian Hardin, Notre Dame's director of sports information, said Wednesday.

Earlier, stories began circulating on the web that Clausen, the school's most highly touted recruit since Ron Powlus in 1993, had undergone elbow surgery. A site called Log's Blog reported, "I recently found out from a trustworthy source (read: doctor) that ND freshman QB Jimmy Clausen recently underwent elbow surgery. Supposedly he will miss the entire season."

Notre Dame's statement contradicts the second half of that report. However, it is no secret that Clausen, who made a public oral commitment to accept a scholarship to Notre Dame in April of 2006 and enrolled in classes there in January, has been afflicted with elbow pain.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis did not have Clausen throw during 7-on-7 winter workouts. In March his father, Jim., Sr., told the Chicago Sun Times that the injury, the nature of which is undisclosed, was discovered last summer.

"We've been aware that this is an issue," the elder Clausen told Vaughn McClure of the Sun Times . "At the end of (his senior) season, he started to lose some velocity...At some point, if it's causing that much discomfort, we'll see what other option is best."

Calls to the Clausen home in California were not returned.

Unlike the NFL, college programs are under no obligation to disclose player injuries to the media or their opponents. In October, the Fighting Irish listed All-American safety Tom Zbikowski on the two-deep chart for a game against Stanford; Zbikowski sat out the entire game.

When the issue is quarterbacks, coaches are even more clandestine. In April of 1985 Notre Dame quarterback Steve Beuerlein, like Clausen a product of southern California, underwent surgery to repair a chipped collarbone in Los Angeles. Dr. Frank Jobe, the man who invented Tommy John Surgery, performed the procedure on Beuerlein, who was a sophomore. The surgery was never disclosed and Beuerlein, who was rushed back too soon to play, had an awful junior year.

"I was in no shape to play football," Beuerlein told NBCSports.com in August.

Thus, if Clausen did undergo surgery (ESPN.com is confirming it) and if he is back on August 6, as Notre Dame says he will be, it isn't the worst thing for him that the story is out. Besides, it is not as if Clausen is No. 1 on the depth chart heading into camp. After Notre Dame's annual Blue-Gold game in April, Weis told the media that Clausen, sophomore dual-threat Demetrius Jones, and junior Evan Sharpley were all in the running for the starting job.

And even if the worst-case scenario were true -- that Clausen had surgery and his recovery will force him to miss part, or all, of his freshman season, Notre Dame fans with any sense of memory will recall that under such duress are championship-caliber teams made. In '93, Powlus, slated as the starter, broke his collarbone during the final preseason scrimmage. The blue-chip from Berwick, Pa., would miss the season. Unheralded senior Kevin McDougal took over and led the Irish within a last-second Boston College field goal of the national championship.

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