WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Jadeveon Clowney was in a rambunctious mood at practice Friday.
He moved between outside linebacker and defensive end effortlessly. He made plays defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel wanted to see.
Most all, Clowney had fun. He usually does. He’s always laughing and smiling when he’s healthy.
After doing his post-run from sideline to sideline with his teammates, Clowney came to the media tent for an interview and said something that might frighten opponents.
“I think I can be even better than I was last year,” Clowney said. “Honestly, I’ve got a lot more to do.
“I’m trying to build on last year and be a better player.”
He went on to explain that being healthy last season – except for the nagging injuries that aggravate players but don’t force them to the sideline – was special for him.
After spending much of his first two seasons injured, recovering from surgeries and trying to learn a new system, Clowney was outstanding in 2016 when he earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition.
“To me, that was my rookie year,” he said. “I was just getting rolling in this league. I think I’m just starting off. I have to step up for the team.”
After playing mostly right end in the 3-4 base defense last season, Clowney is listed on the depth chart as the outside linebacker on the left side. He still plays end. He can be found all over the field in Vrabel’s system.
Watching Clowney on and off the field, it’s apparent he’s comfortable and confident. But he’s not satisfied.
“There’s another level of confidence,” he said. “(Success last season) is a confidence-builder. It makes me work harder to try to reach another level of my game.
“Every day I come out here to go hard, try to get the best out of myself and, when the game comes, it kind gets easy for me.”
Clowney said his best is yet to come.
“I think there’s a lot more in this tank,” he said. “I play this game with attitude. I want to kick everybody’s – you finish that. I come to work every day knowing I’m going to keep getting better and, hopefully, have a great season.
“I want to make more plays than I did last year. Whatever it leads to is, really, just winning. Try to get to that Super Bowl. That’s our goal.”
Clowney said he has a chip on his shoulder and that he continues to be motivated by things said and written about him early in his career.
“Oh, yeah, I keep it on my shoulder,” he said. “I know where I was a couple years ago, how people talked about me. So every day I step on the field (and) just put it in the back of my head and grind and work through everything I got going on that day.”
One criticism bothered Clowney the most.
“Probably that I’m a bust,” he said.
The bust accusation gave him more motivation.
“Let’s get off this couch and get to work,” Clowney said. “I didn’t want to let my family and teammates and (friends and fans) down. They already knew what I had in me.
“They were like, ‘Just get back healthy. We know what you can be.’ They stuck with me, and (I) just worked my tail off to get back.”
On the field, Clowney gets serious.
Off the field, he can be happy-go-lucky.
He knows when to undergo the transformation that’s required of every player in a physical, violent game.
“Yeah, I have fun,” he said. “The only way to get through (it) is having a good time. I don’t think it’s a job. I love football, so it’s all fun to me.
“I get mad (and) I get nasty, too. I already have God-gifted talent. It’s all about the work I put in. It’s the hard work that’s going to take my game to another level.”