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Ravens Insider: Happy and healthy, Ravens’ Jadeveon Clowney is thriving


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It was early August and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney was looking for work visiting the castle that Steve Biscotti built when he bumped into new Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the halls of the sprawling $220 million Owings Mills facility.

Nearly a decade earlier, in 2014, the two had entered the NFL as part of the same star-studded draft class, Clowney as the first overall pick by the Houston Texans and Beckham as the 12th overall pick by the New York Giants. Now here they were, two aging and outsized if not oft-injured stars in search of one last shot at Super Bowl glory in the twilight of their respective careers. Their paths had actually crossed before, in 2021, when they were briefly teammates on the Browns before Beckham’s controversial departure from Cleveland six games into the year. He went on to win a ring with the Los Angeles Rams later that season, while Clowney would have his own ugly exit from the organization after the following season.

“I know what kind of player he is, what he brings to the table and I knew this place would be perfect,” Beckham recently told The Baltimore Sun of the encounter. “I knew he’d been through XYZ, but knew he could still play.”


Clowney, 30, tied his career-high with 9 1/2 sacks during the regular season, played every game in a season for the first time since 2017 and logged 654 snaps, his second-most since 2018. He was a disruptive presence, too, with 23 quarterback pressures, as well as a valuable edge-setter against the run. Perhaps not coincidentally, he’s also been healthy and happy, meshing well in a locker room replete with large personalities and rising young stars, particularly on defense.

Much of his success, Clowney told The Sun, can be traced to the work he put in during the offseason in Houston with trainer Ben Fairchild, who was recommended to him by former Texans teammates Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson and with whom he has worked at Fairchild’s eponymous performance center in Houston since the weeks leading up to the 2021 season. The alliance paid off then just as it did now, with Clowney playing 14 games that year and registering nine sacks, which led to him re-signing for another year with the Browns.

But things soured in Cleveland late last year when he was quoted by cleveland.com three days before the final game of the regular season as saying the organization was more interested in individual accolades for fellow edge rusher Myles Garrett than winning. Clowney was sent home the next day and made inactive for the game.

“You’re all trying to get [Garrett] into the Hall of Fame instead of winning games,” Clowney was quoted as saying, in part, adding that the situation was “B.S.” and that he didn’t have time for it.

Baltimore Ravens practice for 2023 season
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (24) talks with defensive tackle Trey Botts during training camp for the upcoming 2023 NFL season Thursday Aug. 24, 2023. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun
“I was planning on sitting out this season,” outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, right, recently told The Baltimore Sun. (Karl Merton Ferron/Staff)

A free agent in the summer, Clowney, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, also began to eventually wonder if other teams had time for him, or if he did for them. In no hurry to participate in training camp after 10 seasons littered with injuries, surgeries and arduous recoveries, including what he said was an annually aching knee from a torn meniscus he suffered his rookie year, he considered all the options, including not playing.

“I was planning on sitting out this season,” he told The Sun. “I was done with football, and all that training was gonna be for nothing because people were feeling some type of way from what happened in Cleveland. I don’t know, maybe I’d get picked up in midseason.”

He said he also struggled to find a solution to his ailing knee and that he also underwent surgery on his elbow after being diagnosed with pitcher’s elbow, a diagnosis that is caused by overuse and repetitive motion, which results in pain and swelling from the elbow down to the wrist.

Clowney said the injury, along with what he says was a torn triceps, sapped his power last year, and the unrelenting knee issue didn’t help things, either.

“I tried a lot of stuff,” he said of treatments for his knee. “I went to see guys all over, from New York, to Miami, to L.A. Anybody that was hitting me up telling me they could help me with my knee, I was going to see them.”

Eventually, he settled on stem-cell injections in New York on the recommendation of current Dallas Cowboys cornerback Stephon Gilmore and former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.

“I didn’t know all of that when I was playing for Cleveland,” Clowney said of the arm injuries. “They were telling me I had a bone spur; they never told me that was torn. I played every game like that and I wasn’t using my power like I needed to.”

He’d also become disenchanted over the experience he had with his previous two teams, the Browns and Tennessee Titans.

But the chance encounter with Beckham, who raved about the culture in Baltimore, helped sway him, and a $2.5 million deal that could be worth up to $6 million with incentives didn’t hurt, either. Clowney said the organization reminded him of the Seattle Seahawks, for whom he played one season in 2019 after being traded from the Texans.

“They respect players, veterans, want you to come in and be a pro,” he said of the Ravens. “The other two places, they were like college to me, it was, ‘do what we say, it’s the system, it’s not about the players.’ I was like, what are they talking about? That [expletive] ain’t gonna work with our players. When I got here, they made it all about the players. It made it easy to play for the staff, to play for somebody who respects you as a football player and somebody who loves the game instead of questioning your love for the game. Just be a grown man, come in and be professional, do your job and go home is the attitude here.

“I love it here. I can just watch guys move around in the building, how they’re interacting. I hadn’t been here for 48 hours and thought I could fit. [Coach John] Harbaugh is also a guy I’ve been a fan of my whole career.”

It helped there was some familiarity among the staff, too. Ravens associate head coach/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver worked with Clowney in Houston and head trainer Adrian Dixon with him in Tennessee.

And even though controversy and questions swirled around Clowney’s exit from Cleveland, it didn’t take long for coaches and teammates to rave about the rejuvenated veteran.

“The guy that I see is a guy that loves playing football,” defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said. “He loves being around his teammates. He’s a gregarious guy who has a lot of thoughts on a lot of things, which is cool to hear, and he plays the game the right way.”

Said outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith: “There’s nobody in this building, probably except Lamar Jackson, who’s had as much pressure as Jadeveon Clowney [has]. The difference in Jadeveon Clowney in other places, is that he’s developed a skill move. But also, add in, he has the complementary pieces around him that he’s not Jadeveon Clowney, the first-round pick, the No. 1 guy.”

The latter point is one Clowney acknowledges has helped tremendously, calling the linebacker group spearheaded by inside backers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen the best he’s been around in his career.

Clowney, though, has been pretty good himself.

While there was a three-game stretch in the middle of the season when he had zero sacks and just two pressures, has been fairly consistent in wreaking havoc, particularly when not getting chipped off the edge by a second blocker.

Perhaps his best game came in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium, where was a constant menace to quarterback Justin Herbert and delivered the game’s biggest play with a clutch fourth-quarter strip-sack of Herbert that ended a 21-play drive that had spanned nearly nine minutes. In that game, he recorded a pressure rate of 24%, per Next Gen Stats, and the Ravens won, 20-10.

Ravens Chargers Football
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) fumbles as he is sacked by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (24) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. Baltimore recovered the ball on the play. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
Ryan Sun/AP
Ravens outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney strip-sacks Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on Nov. 26. (Ryan Sun/AP)

“He’s a real impressive dude in terms of the ways he plays and the way his mentality is in terms of him saying he wants something and then he goes and gets it,” Ravens third-year outside linebacker Odafe Oweh told The Sun. “I knew he was coming back from a controversial career; kudos to him for that; it’s not easy.

“I heard some negative things [but] I was impressed. He’s a genuine dude [and] he just wants to win.”

As Beckham notes, it helps that the Ravens won, too. They finished the regular season with the best record in the NFL, are the top seed in the AFC and have home-field advantage through the conference championship game.

After earning the coveted first-round bye, Baltimore will host the team that drafted Clowney, the Texans, in Saturday’s divisional round.

The Ravens are 9 1/2-point favorites in that game, and they’re the AFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl, which would be the first of Clowney’s career. Pressure and expectations are high after the Ravens flamed out in 2019, when they went 14-2 and secured the top seed but were stunned at home in the divisional round by the Titans.

Clowney’s presence on the field and in the locker room should help, much the way it has all year.

“Sometimes in here you wanna win so much, it’s so tight,” Oweh told The Sun. “He does a good job easing the room. He’s funny as hell.”

Veteran defensive tackle Michael Pierce has noticed it, too.

“Anytime you can get premium guys off the edge, it’s always a good time,” he said. “And he keeps everything light, he laughs a lot, he has fun with football. He plays like the young guy we used to know. It’s been good to see him resurrect his career. He’s a team guy. He’s been awesome.”

And motivated, too, given how the divorce from Cleveland played out, within the organization and in the media, and that he felt like he never got the chance to live up to the hype he built coming out of South Carolina as the top overall pick because of injuries.

“I felt like I left a lot out there and got the short end of the stick because I got hurt early in my career,” he told The Sun. “You ain’t get to see the guy you drafted after I had my knee injury. I was never past 80% or 85%, and I wasn’t the guy I wanted to be, so in the back of my head, I wanted to get back to that point where I could go out and perform.

“[Leaving Cleveland] motivated me the most because people got a perception that I was a bad teammate or out for myself. … But that’s behind me now. I can’t control what people think, what people wrote about what I said or didn’t say. This year, it’s just, put your head down and grind and let the chips fall where they may.”

If Clowney can deliver in the postseason the way he did in the regular season, that just might include a Super Bowl championship.

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