South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney should have chosen not to play at all this season. Barred by an unfair rule from plying his trade at the NFL level until he’s three years removed from high school, Clowney had everything to lose and nothing to gain by playing for free for another year.
Clowney possibly has begun to figure that out. With the buzz around him diminishing amid a season of ineffectiveness and injury, Clowney opted to sit on Saturday against Kentucky.
And, of course, the guy who gets paid the most for Clowney playing for free went passive aggressive on his star player for choosing not to play.
“I will just say he told me he couldn’t play,” coach Steve Spurrier told the State. “That his ribs hurt, couldn’t run. Said ‘I can’t play.’ I said, ‘That’s fine, you don’t have to play.’ We’ll move on. He may not be able to play next week, I don’t know. We’re not going to worry about it, I can assure you that if he wants to play, we’ll welcome him to come play for the team if he wants to.
“If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play, simple as that. We were thinking he was going to suit up and play. He did not practice Thursday. Couldn’t run. Said he couldn’t play. Any time a player says he’s hurt, can’t play, who are we to question? He doesn’t play.”
Way to have your player’s back, Ball Coach. But at least Clowney can count on defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, right?
“I was totally surprised,” Ward said. “We went through walk-through earlier today, and he said he was hurting, but I thought he was going to play.”
While it’s too late for Clowney to go back to July and tell the Gamecocks that he won’t be undermining his draft stock by playing for free in 2013, Clowney’s case should be a warning to the next guy who finds his stock as high as it can be a year before he’s eligible to be drafted.
When that happens, take your chips, leave the table, stay in shape, and quit playing for free. Though you’ll make more money for your school and your head coach, you could be hurting your own ability to be compensated later.