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Work ethic concerns have trailed Seahawks Jadeveon Clowney since being drafted

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In the Century Links post from Thursday, one of the links included from NJ.com was a piece quoting NFL Insider Tony Pauline on work ethic concerns as a basis for Jadeveon Clowney remaining a free agent. Clowney, of course, was acquired by the Seattle Seahawks from the Houston Texans on the eve of the 2019 season for little more than a ball of lint Seattle general manager John Schneider had pulled out of the dryer at his house. While the surprisingly low price the Hawks paid to acquire Clowney has been somewhat dulled by the fact that the Texans apparently lack the ability to properly value players and picks when making trades, what apparently has not changed is Clowney’s reputation for not always being the hardest worker.

Even before he was selected with the top overall pick in the 2014 draft, there were concerns voiced about his work ethic by draft pundits, as is readily visible in this NFL.com article written two months before the 2014 draft.

Outsiders weren’t the only ones to weigh in on Clowney’s work ethic, however, as even his college coach, Steve Spurrier, offered during an NFL AM radio interview in the build up to the draft that Clowney didn’t have the best work ethic on the team. Spurrier didn’t say that Clowney had a bad work ethic, but the work ethic concerns have trailed Clowney since.

Specifically, even last year as Clowney and the Texans bickered about a contract amidst the drama of the team applying the franchise tag, Peter King noted that Clowney isn’t known as a “worker bee”. Interestingly, the Seahawks would have had a good opportunity to get the full scoop on Clowney from Spurrier prior to acquiring him last fall, as Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer played for Spurrier for three years at Florida back in the nineties.

That all said, Clowney’s tape certainly doesn’t seem to show him taking many, if any, plays off. As former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi noted in the build up to the 2014 draft when weighing in on the question.

“I don’t know him personally, but from what I’ve seen—and I’ve see him a lot—I don’t doubt (his work ethic),” Bruschi said. “Are their plays he could have played harder? Yes, but at the end of the day, there are more good ones.”

That brings the discussion to an interesting, and potentially highly relevant point regarding Clowney’s work ethic. Clowney certainly didn’t seem to lack effort on the field for the Seahawks during the 2019 season, dominating and taking over at times in key games. That could lead one to believe that the concerns stem from a lack of effort during practice, and if that is indeed the case, then it’s a concern that needs to go away.

Long story short, Clowney had microfracture surgery on his knee back in 2014. That is extremely relevant, as it is not uncommon for knees that have been repaired through microfracture surgery to begin to experience issues as the surgically repaired site degrades over time. In effect, Clowney has spent the last five years playing on a knee that would be expected to see some degradation based on a normal lifestyle since the microfracture procedure, without even considering the beating that the knee of an NFL defensive front seven player takes over the course of a season.

That in mind, it would make perfect sense if Clowney didn’t push himself fully in practice because his knee is likely to become the limiting factor in how long he is able to play at a high level in the NFL. Whether that means that he has a single season left, or whether his knee will be able to hold up for another decade, the smart thing for both Clowney and any team is to prioritize minimizing the beating his knee takes during the week in order to avoid prematurely ending his career in practice. One could go on and on about the importance of games relative to practice in the NFL, but it’s likely that Allen Iverson can still best explain that.

So, while Clowney remains a free agent, and the concerns about his work ethic which have existed since before he entered the NFL continue to follow him, it doesn’t appear there’s ever been any concerns about his on field effort during games. Now, obviously the concerns expressed by Pauline regarding Clowney not working hard if he signed a big contract could certainly be valid. However, concerns and commentary on his work ethic have followed him for the past six seasons, and it’s likely that those will follow him through the remainder of his time in the NFL, whether valid or not.