BEREA, Ohio — When Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney limped off the field in the Week 2 matchup, he knew the injury was going to cause him some trouble.
"I couldn't put no weight on my foot at the time, it was like, I wish I could go back out here, but I couldn't bend it and I was really down about it," Clowney said.
After the loss to the Jets, fueled with a mix of frustration at the injury and with the outcome of the game, Clowney was visibly upset as he walked out of the stadium in a medical boot. That emotion was something that ate at him in the moment.
Knowing that the next several weeks would be centered around rehabbing and ensuring the injury didn't linger, Clowney was not happy to be dealing with the situation.
"I just don’t like the injury train. I just know what comes with it. It’s like early mornings, late nights, staying up just trying to do everything you can to get back. I hate the process, but I know what it takes to get back. I just didn’t want to go through it. I was mad it happened to me at that time. And I’m sure anybody will tell you, you don’t want to be hurt in this league. But the chances are, anytime you walk out there, it can happen," Clowney explained.
The past few weeks for Clowney have been just that—easing back into action while working on rehabbing the ankle injury. It's a process that the defensive end described as "boring," because, well, it is. No action during practice sessions, weight training and conditioning for hours, it's something no athlete enjoys.
Clowney's work also means being smart about the injury. As a player who has dealt with multiple injuries that have knocked him out for the remainder of seasons, having this ankle ailment linger by returning too soon is something Clowney is actively trying to avoid.
"That's what I'm in between now, come back too early and hurt myself for the rest of the season. I want to be out there with my teammates more than anything and I love to play the game, so it's fun. I don't have fun when I'm hurt, nobody does, training, rehab, just coming to work and knowing that every day is boring," Clowney said.
Still, having him in practice, and especially in games is something his team has been missing since Week 2.
“So big, strong and physical, powerful, that they really help us in terms of setting edges and being disruptive. So not having [Myles Garrett and Clowney] is different," said defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
Garrett also missed several practice sessions and Sunday's game against the Falcons after a serious rollover crash left him with a shoulder sprain, biceps strain and cuts and bruises. Garrett was able to return to practice on Wednesday, but unfortunately, Clowney was sidelined Wednesday and Thursday.
While Clowney still awaits his return, he knows how much of a boost his presence mixed with Garrett's return will provide the defense, which struggled against the run Sunday and clearly felt the impact of their absence.
"It's very tough to watch a team go out there and play without you no matter what's going on in the game. I just wanted to be out there with them and support them and give it my all out there with them. Just trying to get back so I can do that now," Clowney said.
But while Clowney eases back to practice activity, he's very much focused on being smart in his approach.
"It’s always a problem when you’re out there worried about what’s going on with your body and stuff instead of being out there worrying about the opponent or what you’re doing. But you want to be out there with your teammates. You want to give them what you’ve got, and whatever that is, you want to give it to them, because they depend on you. They’re counting on you," Clowney said.
Because at the end of the day, Clowney knows that playing at 100% is something that isn't just the right move for him, it's the right move for the team.
"You don’t know how much I hear it throughout the day, ‘we’re counting on you. We need you.’ And that’s kind of in the back of your head pushing you but then you have to tell yourself ‘I don’t want to hurt myself in that process.’ I done been there so many times, like I said, I’m just trying to do this one a little different and make sure when I come back I don’t miss no more time."
Woods said on Thursday that Clowney was still day-to-day and while he didn't practice, both the defensive end and the team are hopeful that he'll have a chance to play Sunday when the Chargers are in town.
"I’m hoping so, man. Like I said, just take it one day at a time and keep working towards that and see what comes for Sunday," Clowney said.
Camryn Justice is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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