BEREA — Jadeveon Clowney is stuck in the middle. He doesn’t want to miss any more games with a sprained right ankle but is worried about coming back too soon and jeopardizing the rest of his season.
“That’s what I’m in between now,” the defensive end said Thursday. “I want to be out there with my teammates more than anything and I love to play the game. Just trying to help myself, come in, put the hours in and try to get better so I can get back out there fast with my teammates.”
Clowney, 29, ran in cleats to test the ankle Thursday morning but didn’t practice in the afternoon. He hasn’t practiced or played since rolling the ankle Sept. 18 in the third quarter against the Jets. He said the injury was between a low and high sprain.
He’s holding out hope he’ll feel good enough to play Sunday against quarterback Justin Herbert, the Chargers and their top-ranked passing attack.
“Just take it one day at a time right now, rehab and letting the day take its course, try to get out there, get it going, miss playing and I’m ready to be back,” he said. “I should be back well very soon and back to my old tricks.”
Clowney, who has 1.5 sacks, two passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and five tackles in less than two games, has been missed.
The pass rush disappeared after he left against the Jets, and the Browns had only two sacks in the next two games. With All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett also missing the 23-20 loss to the Falcons on Sunday with shoulder and biceps injuries sustained in a one-car crash, the Browns allowed 202 rushing yards, including 170 in the second half.
“It’s very tough to watch a team go out there and play without you no matter what’s going on in the game,” Clowney said. “I just wanted to be out there with them and support them and give it my all out there with them.”
Garrett returned to practice Wednesday, and coordinator Joe Woods said he expects him to play vs. the Chargers. Clowney knows things could’ve turned out much worse for Garrett, whose Porsche 911 Turbo S went off the road, hit a fire hydrant and rolled several times.
“I told him if something would have happened to him, I don’t know how it would have went well with this locker room or this team, if we would have been still playing or not,” Clowney said. “He’s a big part of this team, great guy to have around, very good friend in the locker room. Got nothing to do with a football, he’s just a good dude and you don’t want nothing to happen to anyone you know or anybody like that, so I was praying for him and glad he’s back.”
Garrett said after the accident he would change his driving habits, and Clowney’s adjusted his, too.
“I told him, ‘Man, you’ve got me putting my seat belt on in the morning,’” Clowney said. “Sometimes, you’re younger, you hop in that car, we just take off and don’t put that seat belt on. I hopped in this morning, I’m like, I’m going to put my seat belt on. I don’t even be speeding, I’m just putting my seat belt on.
“He’s blessed to be here. The little car he was driving, for him to come out with nothing really wrong with him is a blessing. Drive safe, it’s crazy.”
Clowney has way more experience with injuries than he’d like. He’s missed 34 games in his nine-year NFL career, starting with microfracture surgery as a rookie in 2014 with the Texans.
“I just don’t like the injury train. I just know what comes with it,” he said. “It’s early mornings, late nights, staying up just trying to do everything you can to get back.”
As Clowney pushes to return, his decision will be informed by experiences from early in his career when he played at well below 100 percent and ended up hurting himself more than helping the team.
“You don’t know how much I hear it throughout the day, ‘We’re counting on you. We need you,’” he said. “And that’s kind of in the back of your head pushing you, but then you have to tell yourself, ‘I don’t want to hurt myself in that process.’
“I done been there so many times, I’m just trying to do this one a little different and make sure when I come back I don’t miss no more time.”
He does find the matchup with Herbert enticing.
“I know, I want to go bad,” Clowney said. “It would be great to have the whole front back. Any time you’re going against a passing team, that’s what D-linemen dream of, rushing the passer and getting after the quarterback. We’re trying to get healthy as a group up front and the whole team and get ready to go.”