Jimmy Clausen has two modest goals at the moment: get his throwing arm back in shape and find a job. And he hasn't given up on being an NFL starter again, either.

"That's what I want," Clausen, once a prized prep recruit and Notre Dame standout, told USA TODAY Sports this week while driving to a throwing session. "The only thing I can ask for is an opportunity — a legit opportunity to compete to be a No. 2 and hopefully work my way up."

Clausen's four-year rookie contract with the Carolina Panthers expired after last season, which he spent on injured reserve after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder in the preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers — a game he finished without knowing the extent of the damage.

He quietly underwent surgery with noted orthopedist James Andrews on Sept. 11, didn't throw for roughly five months thereafter and now finds himself unemployed as organized team activities launch around the league.

"It's tough," Clausen said. "Obviously, I'm a competitor and want to get somewhere and compete."

A second-round pick (48th overall) in 2010, Clausen hasn't gotten a chance to do that outside of practice and exhibition games since his rookie year, when he threw for three touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games (10 starts). The Panthers went 2-14 that season, leading to a coaching change and giving them the No. 1 pick they used in 2011 on Cam Newton, who has started every game since and kept Clausen on the bench.

"I think it's been a fire under his butt not being with a team right now," said Clausen's longtime trainer, Ryan Capretta. "I can tell you he's in here probably three hours a day. He's working with a therapist. He's out running with the rest of the guys. He's lifting. He's doing everything he can."

Clausen also is throwing four times a week with his quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson. He estimates his arm is about 95% back to normal and on track to participate in OTAs, if and when he gets signed.

"I'm still really young," said Clausen, 26. "I'm going into my fifth year in the league. I feel great. This is probably right now the healthiest I've been since my junior year in college, to be honest with you."

He tore two tendons in the big toe on his right foot in the third game of that 2009 season for the Irish, had surgery before the draft, then had surgery for a neuroma on the same foot after his rookie year with the Panthers.

With his feet healthy, Clausen said his lower-body strength is better than ever. Capretta and his staff at ProActive Sports Performance have worked extensively on Clausen's foot speed in hopes of showing improved mobility in workouts for prospective suitors.