COLUMBIA – Steve Spurrier is thankful for Jadeveon Clowney, not bitter. The past 72 hours have been one giant misunderstanding, not the beginning of the end.
That’s the message Spurrier gave Tuesday afternoon at his weekly news conference. The Head Ball Coach was a bit remorseful, stepping back from comments he made after Saturday night’s win at Kentucky, perhaps with a better sense of priorities and context.
“We didn’t handle it well, I think the whole group of us,” Spurrier said. “But let me say this about Jadeveon. If he never plays another snap here, we all should be thankful and appreciative that he came to South Carolina.
“None of us need to be upset at Jadeveon. None of us. He’s played his part tremendously. I think we’re 26-5 since he suited up for South Carolina. I’m all for Jadeveon and his future. When he’s ready to play, we’re going to put him out there.”
Clowney was not available Tuesday in the early afternoon, but he could speak with the media after tonight’s practice. It would be the first time this season he’s been available to the media during the week leading up to a game.
Spurrier, reading from a sheet of paper, spoke of Clowney’s impact on his program in an opening statement that was part mea culpa, part explanation of how something seemingly minor could spiral so far out of control. He referenced the 26 wins – including two 11-win seasons – since Clowney stepped inside Williams-Brice Stadium as a freshman. He mentioned Clowney’s role in building the brand of Gamecocks football.
Spurrier did not question Clowney’s commitment to return to the field before season’s end. He said Clowney has received treatment on his ribs twice a day, every day. He did not know if Clowney would play Saturday at Arkansas, but said an announcement should come later in the week.
“He’s doing everything he can to get ready to play,” Spurrier said. “I just want to clear the air that Jadeveon, all those No. 7 jerseys and all the money he’s made for our school, he’s been a tremendous, important player, and we all – every Gamecock, including me, the coaches – we need to be appreciative that he chose South Carolina. He could’ve gone anywhere in the country, and he’s a big reason that we’ve had those seasons. He’s trying to do all he can to get ready to play.”
Spurrier said he’s spoken with Clowney since Saturday, but he did not divulge details of their conversation. When asked why such a sudden shift in his stance, Spurrier said “all the information’s out now.” His frustration was that traditional protocol was not followed before Saturday’s game, not simply that Clowney did not play.
Spurrier also attempted to clarify his Saturday comment that Clowney didn’t have to play if he didn’t want to play.
“When I make a comment about a player doesn’t have to play if he doesn’t want to, that really goes to any player,” Spurrier said. “Any player – Connor Shaw, Bruce Ellington. If for some reason any player doesn’t want to play, as coaches we don’t say, ‘You have to play.’ That’s something coaches don’t do, and this was a situation that he had something that was really bothering him, and hopefully it will be taken care of real soon.”
Senior quarterback Connor Shaw said he and his teammates have not allowed the Clowney situation to become a distraction.
“I think everybody else is letting it become a distraction,” Shaw said. “Our team is not. It doesn’t feel that way at all. It doesn’t faze us at all. It’s just everybody surrounding us making it a big deal. All I know is Clowney has helped us win a lot of games, and he will in the future as well.”