Buses filled with Browns players departed for Pittsburgh around 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney wasn’t on any of them.
Not that there was much doubt, but the Browns (7-9) made it official by downgrading Clowney to out for the season finale Sunday vs the Steelers (8-8). He was sent home before practice Friday after publicly criticizing how he was used this season.
“Nothing comes above the team,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday, signaling the decision that had been made but wasn’t announced until Saturday.
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Rookie end Alex Wright is expected to start in Clowney’s place, and tackle Taven Bryan could get reps at end.
Clowney, 29, told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com on Thursday he was “95 percent” sure he wouldn’t return next season because the team catered too much to fellow defensive end Myles Garrett and the coaches put him in difficult spots by trying to get Garrett favorable matchups.
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Clowney attended the defensive line meeting Friday morning, and Garrett said Clowney didn’t really talk to anyone. He met with Stefanski before leaving the team facility.
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin confirmed Clowney refused to play on first and second down during a 23-20 loss to the Ravens on Oct. 23 in Baltimore and was benched for the first possession of the win over the Bengals the following week.
Clowney’s biggest complaint to Cleveland.com was the preferential treatment of Garrett he perceived.
“You’re all trying to get somebody into the Hall of Fame when all that matters is winning,” Clowney said. “Everybody got here for a reason, and we can all make plays.”
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Garrett is fourth in the NFL with 15 sacks and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the third straight season. Clowney had two sacks in 12 games.
Garrett said he didn’t take Clowney’s comments personally but didn’t like how he handled his frustration.
“I want volunteers not hostages,” Garrett said Friday. “If you feel like no one believes in you here, then go. Go where you feel like you’re wanted, you’re loved and you can be appreciated.”
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Clowney joined the Browns in 2021 on a one-year contract and signed another in May for $10 million with the chance to earn another $1 million in incentives. In two seasons, he started 24 of 26 games with 11 sacks, 65 tackles, 15 for loss, 23 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and five passes defensed.
Kiffin said nothing changed in the way Clowney was used from last season, when he had nine sacks. Clowney missed three games this year with an ankle injury and another with a concussion.
“At this point in his career he is always dealing with chronic lingering injuries but nothing too extreme,” Kiffin said. “He missed a couple of games, but for whatever reason, the production wasn’t there.”
He “totally” disagreed with Clowney saying the Browns are trying to get Garrett into the Hall of Fame at the expense of others.
“If we’re trying to win football games, we’re putting our best players in the best positions to make plays,” Kiffin said. “I think sacking the quarterback and getting the ball out is going to help you win games.”
** The Browns elevated linebacker Storey Jackson and defensive end Sam Kamara from the practice squad for the finale. They could make their Browns debuts.
Jackson is an undrafted rookie out of Liberty. Kamara is in his second year out of Stony Brook and appeared in eight games for the Bears with 10 tackles.