Jadeveon Clowney said emphatically Tuesday that his late scratch from the lineup before his Gamecocks' 35-28 win over Kentucky Saturday was not an attempt to protect his draft stock -- and was even less any indication of a lack of commitment to the team.
“I haven't played my last game here,” Clowney told reporters, per The State. “I will be back on the field. I just don't know how long it's going to take me to get back, but I will be back ...
"I am not looking to sit out. I am not that type of guy. I am here for the team regardless, and I am here to work with the team."
Clowney's statements echoed those of his head coach made earlier Tuesday. Three days after showing his frustration at Clowney's absence from his team's lineup in a much-discussed postgame press conference, Steve Spurrier told reporters he wanted to "clear the air" about Clowney's situation, and that his star defensive end was working hard to get back on the field.
"He has been coming to treatment, I think, twice a day and told me he is doing everything he can to try to get ready to play," Spurrier said. "All those No. 7 jerseys, and all the money he's made for our school -- he's been a tremendous, important player. And we all, every Gamecock, including me, coaches, everybody out there -- we need to be appreciative he chose South Carolina."
Spurrier said Saturday he and other Gamecock coaches expected Clowney to play until just moments before kickoff. Tuesday, Spurrier blamed a "protocol" breakdown between the Gamecock training staff and coaching staff for his confusion and postgame frustration, and said Clowney had been diagnosed with a "muscle strain near his rib area."
"Obviously, we all handled it poorly," Spurrier said. "All of us did."
Clowney's sudden absence and Spurrier's reaction had fueled speculation that the junior had made a decision vs. Kentucky with an eye toward keeping himself healthy for next April's draft, where Clowney could go as high as No. 1 overall. But Spurrier vigorously defended both his player's decision and his commitment to the Gamecock program.
"Let me say this about Jadeveon," Spurrier said. "If he never plays another snap here, we all should be thankful and appreciative that he came to South Carolina," Spurrier said. "We've won 26 games, two 11-2 years, the greatest seasons we've had in 120 years.
"So none of us need to be upset at Jadeveon. None of us. He's played his part tremendously."
Clowney did not practice Tuesday with the muscle strain and is questionable for the Gamecocks' trip to Arkansas Saturday.