The wheels of the Jadeveon Clowney saga keep spinning, and Clowney did his best to slow them down Tuesday.
Clowney sat out of South Carolina's 35-28 win over Kentucky on Saturday with a rib injury, which apparently caught head coach Steve Spurrier off guard to a point where the Head Ball Coach was still angry about it during his postgame press conference, according to Josh Kendall of The State.
Cooler heads apparently prevailed Tuesday, when Spurrier conceded that it was a miscommunication between he, Clowney and the training staff, according to quotes released by the university.
"It caused some confusion, we didn’t know he wasn’t suiting up until a little later, so we didn’t handle it well," Spurrier said.
Clowney echoed those comments after South Carolina's practice and addressed speculation that he could be more focused on the NFL rather than South Carolina.
"I haven't played my last game yet," Clowney said, via the university's website. "I will be back on the field. I just don't know how long it will take to get back but I'm going to be back playing. I'm going to keep doing my thing, keep playing football and moving forward."
But does he have a reason to keep playing for the Gamecocks? Whether he's high maintenance or really injured, his draft fate is essentially sealed. Unless something catastrophic happens, he will be a top-five pick and likely the first player selected in the 2014 NFL draft.
With that said, of course he has something to play for. Sure, his career and well-being are and should be his top priority, but his legacy is also important.
Clowney's two seasons in Columbia have produced the first two 11-win seasons in program history, and with the team sitting at 4-1—with that one loss coming to a suddenly injury-depleted Georgia team—the SEC East championship is still attainable.
But it's bigger than just the division.
With a No. 14 ranking attached to the front of its name, South Carolina still has an outside shot at winning the BCS National Championship.
Even to the most selfish player in the world—which Clowney is not—titles matter. They matter personally, and they matter professionally—even after that player retires from the NFL when he can tout that title ring in business, in the media or in the public speaking circuit.
Alienating a program while there's still so much on the line would be a bad decision.
On the field, Clowney still has work to do, too.
His performance this season has been decent—12 tackles (three for loss), two sacks and one forced fumble in four games—when offensive coordinators are largely calling plays to go away from his side of the field. But save for the forced fumble against Vanderbilt, he hasn't made the major impact a top draft pick typically makes.
At times—particularly against North Carolina and UCF when he claimed to be suffering from viruses—it looked like the Rock Hill, S.C., native took plays off. That likely won't impact his final draft position, but it'd be beneficial for Clowney to make amends and avoid those questions as much as possible with a solid close to his junior season in Columbia.
Clowney is a competitor and is seemingly torn between his priorities to his team and to himself. It's hard to blame him, considering the unique spot he's in.
While the lure of the NFL and its paycheck is nice, he still has plenty to play for at South Carolina. He says he'll be back. If and when he does step back on the field, it should help his team and himself down the road.
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