"I've been encouraged and impressed," Smith said. "He's doing well. We expect him to be a major contributor this year."
Clowney had his rookie season cut short last year when he required knee surgery. He previously said the rehab was going well and he thinks he can return to being the same player as before the injury.
"I'm very confident about that," Clowney said, speaking for the first time since his Dec. 8 surgery. "This rehab's going to help me a lot to get back towards playing."
Clowney was forced to stay off his feet for almost two months following the procedure on his knee.
"Oh man, I thought it was going to be real rough but I had my family around me a lot so it kind of went by fast being at home," he said. "The minute they told me I could walk I took off."
"Rehab is (a lot) tougher than playing," Clowney said. "You gotta be in there earlier than everybody, you've gotta leave later than everybody. That's a lot tougher than playing."
In four games played as a rookie, the former first overall draft pick in 2014 registered seven tackles.
"It's going good. I'm taking it one day at a time, having some fun hanging out with fans," said Clowney, who made his first public comments since Thanksgiving.
Clowney wouldn't comment on his status for training camp.
"I'm not going to speak on that, but I'm making progress, and I'm very encouraged," Clowney said. "I'm working hard, but we're not going to rush it."
The former first overall pick by the Texans in 2014 only played in 4 games as a rookie due to microfracture surgery early in the year. In his four games played, two of which he started, he posted seven total tackles.
"Hopefully he'll be able to get out on the field sometime during training camp," O'Brien said. "Maybe at the beginning of training camp if he continues to work at the pace that he's been working."
Clowney was originally projected to be out until September and O'Brien said Clowney has been working diligently to come back earlier.
"Our team needs him, and he knows that. He's working hard to get back out there," O'Brien said.
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