BEREA, Ohio — Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney certainly has had a whirlwind of a career. In his eight years in the NFL, Clowney has spent time on the Texans, Seahawks and Titans before landing in Cleveland. And as a No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he's had a lot of expectations to live up to over the years.
Despite a disappointing season with the Titans last year, Clowney is hopeful for an explosive resurgence with the Browns in 2021 for one reason in particular: health.
Clowney has dealt with numerous injuries throughout the course of his career. In the summer of 2014, Clowney required surgery for a sports hernia and a few months later had another surgery for a torn meniscus sustained in his first NFL game, followed by complications and another microfracture surgery a few weeks later.
A series of minor injuries shadowed him over the next few years including ankle and elbow sprains, a back injury and a hip injury, in addition to two other knee surgeries in 2016 and 2017. With the injuries being minor, Clowney was able to put his talent on display, named to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2016-18.
Then Clowney dealt with a core injury in 2019, having surgery in February of last year to address the muscle injury. And the issues of his health reemerged last season when he signed a one-year contract worth more than $12 million with the Titans and played just eight games with the team, causing disruption but recording no sacks, before his season ended due to another knee surgery.
"I think I had a rough start to my career," Clowney said. "I started off with the worst injury I could think of with the microfracture."
Now, with the Browns in 2021, Clowney feels this is his year to shine because he's finally in good health once again.
"I had probably one of the best offseasons I've had working out, so I'm looking for a big year, and with the guys around me, I think that can happen," Clowney said.
Complemented by fellow defensive end Myles Garrett, with rotational pieces of Takkarist McKinley, Porter Gustin and Curtis Weaver—and the new additions and returning players at defensive tackle including veterans Malik Jackson and Damion Square as well as Andrew Billings, Jordan Elliot and rookies Tommy Togiai and Marvin Wilson—the defensive line is set with talent.
Getting that talent on the same page is one of the main goals of training camp, and the Browns aren't wasting any time on that front. Clowney, in particular, said he's been hard at work to get up to speed so what they're doing to camp can translate to the field come Sept. 12.
"I just focus on myself, getting better, learning the playbook, getting out here with the guys and focusing on the team," Clowney said. "I think we have a good team and we can do big things if we just all come together and play well.”
On his fourth team in eight years, Clowney believes coming to the Browns has been the best change in terms of getting involved with the team before signing a contract. The Browns pursued Clowney last season but his agent didn't push Cleveland on him, no deal was reached and Clowney signed with the Titans. With a new agent who sent Clowney to the Browns for a visit, the defensive end found a connection and a desire to play in orange and brown.
The credit to that decison being made goes to the coaching staff, who laid out their plan for the organization and its players and made Clowney confident that Cleveland had a bright future ahead.
"The coaching staff was pretty laid back, and I felt like they knew what they were doing and know where they were going and where the organization is headed, and they knew how to get where they were trying to go," Clowney said in April after signing with the Browns. "I want to be a part of something like that. That's how I ended up here.”
At camp, Clowney has been very active, out on the field more often than not, working hard through every drill and team activity.
"I just want to work and get better. I think I still have a lot to prove," Clowney said. "I enjoy being out here and playing football."
With 39 days until the Browns regular season kicks off, Clowney is enjoying himself and looking forward to playing freely once again with a clean bill of health and a point to prove.
“I think when you're healthy you have a lot of fun. When you've been playing for seven years—I've been dealing with injuries seven years—it's kind of not fun being out there, but when you're taking care of your body, you're in good health and you know what you love, I think it's fun and exciting to be out there moving around and feeling good,” Clowney said. "I don't think I've reached my potential yet...every time I get going I get hurt, something happens and I have to fall back or take something off but hopefully this year will just keep going up and keep getting better."
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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