During the slog of an NFL season, every player picks up his share of bumps and bruises. While some of those injuries are severe, most are smaller issues that a professional athlete can fight through. It looks like Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be in that exact situation tonight when he suits up for Monday Night Football.
While Clowney seems set to play through the pain, don’t mistake his availability for a clean bill of health. The defensive star’s core-muscle issue might have some long-term implications for the Seahawks.
Jadeveon Clowney’s road to Seattle
While Jadeveon Clowney currently plies his trade in Seattle, he got his start on the opposite coast. He played college at the University of South Carolina, spending three seasons with the Gamecocks. During his time in Columbia, he terrorized opposing offenses, recording 129 total tackles, and 24 sacks and generating a surprising amount of Heisman buzz for a defensive player.
After his junior season, Clowney declared for the NFL draft. The Houston Texans made him the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, but the defensive end’s rookie year wouldn’t go according to plan; a knee injury meant he only appeared in four games that season.
After returning to full health, however, Clowney returned to form. With each passing season, he posted bigger and bigger numbers. The defensive end recorded 4.5 sacks in his second pro season; that jumped to 6 sacks the next season and 9.5 the year after that. But, off the field, things started to break down. The Texans franchised tagged Clowney as a linebacker rather than a defensive end, which tied him to a lower salary bracket. Clowney held out in dissatisfaction and was eventually traded to Seattle for peanuts.
Jadeveon Clowney’s current injury
While he got off to a slow start in Seattle, Jadeveon Clowney has emerged as one of the Seahawks’ most important defensive players. While the defensive end only has three sacks this season, he’s still beating his blocker and pressuring opposing quarterbacks at an impressive rate.
Clowney’s most dominant game in Seattle came in Week 10, when he terrorized the San Francisco 49ers. While he hit Jimmy Garoppolo five times, including one strip-sack, recovered a fumble and ran it back for Seattle’s opening touchdown, he also picked up a core muscle injury in the process.
Clowney missed last week’s game and visited Dr. William Meyers, who specializes in core-muscle injuries. While the defensive end is available to play tonight, it sounds like his issues are far from over.
“I told him to hold [surgery] off,” Clowney explained. “So I’m holding that off and trying to finish this season. If it was a lot of games left, it’d be different. But we ain’t got many. … I just told him I think I can get through those and try to help this team.”
How does this injury affect a future Seahawks contract?
While playing through injury is admirable, it could put a player’s potential future earnings in jeopardy. In this case, however, Clowney might be putting himself in line for a bigger payday by showing loyalty to his new team and waiting until the offseason to go under the knife.
When Dr. Meyers performs a core-injury surgery, the estimated recovery time is generally three to eight weeks, with some variability depending on the severity of the injury. Physical therapy usually begins a week after surgery, with 95% of patients returning to their previous performance levels.
While Clowney’s contract expires at the end of the season, there are some complicating factors. Since the defensive end was franchise tagged by the Texans, Seattle can’t sign him to a contract before the end of the season; they also agreed that they wouldn’t franchise the defensive end as part of the terms of the trade. While there haven’t been any public talks between the camps, Clowney might be angling for a bit of a thank you from the Seahawks; if he’s holding off on surgery to play in the postseason, there has to be some payoff down the line in the form of a nice extension.
In sports, win-win scenarios don’t come around too often. If Jadeveon Clowney plays through a nagging injury to help Seattle reach postseason glory, and the team rewards him with a hefty contract extension, both parties will come out on top.