In the offseason, there were some who thought Jadeveon Clowney would — or should — sit out the 2013 season in order to protect his presumptive status as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 draft.
Just prior to South Carolina’s game with Kentucky Saturday night, the All-American made a decision that has some thinking along those lines yet again.
The defensive end did not play in the Gamecocks’ win, telling the coaching staff that his bruised ribs, which kept him out of practice Thursday, would not allow him to get on the field. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward called Clowney’s decision a surprise, saying he thought the lineman would be available.
Ward did not find out he wouldn’t have Clowney at his disposal until shortly before kickoff.
It was head coach Steve Spurrier, though, who seemed the most perturbed in his postgame talk with the media. The OBC began the Clowney round of questioning by stating “I don’t want to get into all of that,” so of course he proceeded to get into all of that. From GoGamecocks.com:
“I will just say he told me he couldn’t play. That his ribs hurt, couldn’t run. Said ‘I can’t play.’ I said, that’s fine, you don’t have to play. We’ll move on. He may not be able to play next week, I don’t know. We’re not going to worry about it, I can assure you that if he wants to play, we’ll welcome him to come play for the team if he wants to.
“If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play, simple as that. We were thinking he was going to suit up and play. He did not practice Thursday. Couldn’t run. Said he couldn’t play. Any time a player says he’s hurt, can’t play, who are we to question? He doesn’t play.”
This is the second time in less than two months that Spurrier has used very public snark when it came to a Clowney injury. During summer camp in mid-August, Clowney and several teammates were the targets or Spurrier’s words, with the coach sending thinly-veiled threats that they would sit out the opener if they didn’t get back on the practice field.
“We’ve got a bunch of hurt guys who act like they are really hurt so right now they may not play.” Spurrier said at the time. “I’ll handle those guys. We’re not depending on them. We can still field a team.”
Asked after the game if he will play against Arkansas next Saturday, Clowney said, “I don’t know.” When asked the same question, Ward said, “We’ll see.”
In fairness to Clowney, he dealt with the shoulder issue that Spurrier downplayed and now is apparently struggling with what he says is a rib issue. Additionally, he’ll undergo surgery following the 2013 season to take care of bone spurs that he’s dealt with since his high school days.
Whether because of the injuries or other factors, Clowney has not had the type of statistical season expected from a player who was a preseason Heisman favorite. Add in this latest off-field drama and, well, as talented as Clowney is, the fact that he will bolt for the NFL draft next April may be a blessing in disguise for all involved.