Jadeveon Clowney (Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier says his team didn't handle the situation with Jadeveon Clowney's injury well, leading to a flurry of criticism of the player.
Spurrier addressed the recent controversy Tuesday at his weekly news conference with reporters, and also defended his star player.
"He was in pain, it was diagnosed later, and obviously we all handled it poorly," Spurrier admitted. "All of us did."
Before last Saturday's Kentucky game, Clowney told Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward that he was hurt and couldn't play. In comments after the contest, Spurrier seemed to express frustration that he didn't know sooner: "If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants. But he if doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play. Simple as that."
That comment sparked speculation from national media about Clowney's commitment to the program, and whether the defensive end was more worried about his future NFL career than playing for the Gamecocks.
Spurrier now says he didn't have all the information on the injury at the time, suggesting there was a communication breakdown with his staff about his player's condition. [Originally, the injury was reported as a rib bruise; it later was changed to a muscle strain in the rib area.]
Spurrier said fans and the media shouldn't question Clowney's contribution to the Gamecocks
"If he never plays another snap here, we should be thankful and appreciative that he came to South Carolina," Spurrier said. "All those number seven 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, and coaches, and everybody out there need to be appreciative that he chose South Carolina."
His fellow players appear to agree.
"It doesn't phase us at all," said USC starting quarterback Connor Shaw. "He's helped us win a lot of games and he'll help us win a lot more. It's a big deal to everyone else, not us...People get hurt all the time. He'll be back and ready to go."
Spurrier said Clowney is doing all he can to get back on the field, receiving twice daily treatments. A decision on if he'll play versus Arkansas is expected later in the week.