It's been a long road back for Jadeveon Clowney, and it's not over yet. This morning, however, the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft made his much anticipated return to the practice field. Clowney, Bill O'Brien, Brian Cushing, Johnathan Joseph, and Whitney Mercilus talked about it after the morning session. You can find a full transcript here. I've pulled a few excerpts for your immediate reaction below.
(on how he felt at practice) "I felt pretty good. I’m just happy to be back out here with my teammates. Taking it one day at a time."
(on what it means to him to get back out on the field after being injured) "It means a lot to me, you know, to be out here, practicing with the guys. It’s been a long time, so I was very excited to be out there today."
(on his soreness) "No soreness today. We’re just building up. I hope we just stay like that, maintain, keep going forward."
(on what percentage he would say he’s at physically) "I feel better than I did last year after my first surgery, so that’s all I’m going to say on that. I feel great, just saying what they tell me. Everyday we’re going to build up from what I did today, so tomorrow will be more than what I did today, so just building to hopefully stay where I’m at."
(on if it’s tough to hold back at practice) "Yeah, I was like ‘Coach, let me get some pass rush today.’ He was like ‘No, it’s your first day out here, we’re going to take it slow.’ I was like, ‘Man, what am I going to do now this whole time?’ Take it slow, you’re going to have plenty of opportunity, so just wait."
(on if he felt like there was a turning point in his rehab where it started getting easier) "Probably after OTAs. Before OTAs, I was a little worried, there was a little swelling here and there, but after OTAs it started coming around, it started feeling great. And I was just like, (Coordinator of Rehabilitation/Assistant Athletic Trainer) Roland (Ramirez) let’s push for a good date to come back, and he’s like, put down the 17th."
(on if he will play when the regular season starts) "We’ll see, we’ll see."
(on what he wanted to see out of OLB Jadeveon Clowney today) "Again, we brought him back, walkthroughs, stretch, individual. I thought that’s basically what we wanted to see."
(on the work OLB Jadeveon Clowney put in to get back) "Yeah, I think anytime you have surgery, the rehab process can be monotonous. He put in the work. We’re going to ease him back into this thing and ramp him up to be able to play in games and go from there. So yeah, he put in a lot of work."
(on if he spent time with OLB Jadeveon Clowney during rehab) "I spent time with him. He and I talk. Obviously, when we went with the surgery with him, we felt like that was the best thing for him. At that time, we probably spoke the most about how important rehab was going to be. I think he took that to heart. He worked hard and now he’s back out here, which is good."
(on when OLB Jadeveon Clowney will play in a game) "I don’t know."
(on how OLB Jadeveon Clowney feels about being back) "Mentally it is really good for him. I know just from watching him and talking to him today he feels good about it. It is a long kind of drawn out process being in rehab and going through all the steps to get back. He is just one step closer and you can definitely tell he is very upbeat about it."
(on if he can appreciate the process OLB Jadeveon Clowney had to go through) "Sure, sure can. I know what it is like, I have done it twice. It’s not easy. There are a lot of dark days and repetitive hard work that has to go in. The hardest part is over for him. Now it is the fun part, getting back and playing football with the guys."
(on if OLB Jadeveon Clowney sought his advice) "We talk a bunch. We talk about little things and the knee and all that. We talked a lot during the whole process. Like I said, he looks great."
(on if he could tell that OLB Jadeveon Clowney took the difficulty of rehab to heart) "Without a doubt. I think he did his research as well. Everybody put their minds together. I am on the outside looking in, but this is just from speaking to him day to day. He talked with guys who played before who have had the injury. I think he went down his whole checklist and just making sure everything was in order, and I think he stuck to the plan. Everything worked itself out."
(on whether he could sense OLB Jadeveon Clowney’s anticipation this past week) "Oh yeah, Clowney is always excited. He’s definitely excited. He’s wanted to be a part of the group instead of all the way over there on the side of the field, instead of spectating. He wants to be in with the guys playing, in there, pass rushing, playing a run, things like that, so he’s excited to be back."