Jadeveon Clowney should consider sitting out the 2013 season.
That's the premise of a column penned by Tom Sorensen in Monday's Charlotte Observer. Sorensen argues that, in order to avoid a career-threatening injury, Jadeveon Clowney should sit out his junior season at South Carolina prior to likely being taken as the #1 overall player in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Look, I get it. It's the middle of February. We're all fighting for page views between now and the start of spring practice, but this column is some next level Bayless/Rovell trolling. (To Sorensen's credit, it worked. The column became so widely viewed that it generated a talking point on Monday's episode of the ESPN sports/debate show Pardon The Interruption.)
While I don't agree with the NFL's position on excluding underclassmen from the labor market, I also know that Jadeveon Clowney deciding to sit out a season is no more likely to change the NFL's mind in 2013 than it was in 2004.
I was planning to ignore this column altogether, but then Jadeveon himself decided to have a bit of fun with it, posting an Instagram of Michael Wilbon engaged in debate on the subject with the caption "got me thinking". Posting this would not be inconsistent with Clowney's sense of humor, who also tweeted several weeks ago that he would be in school two more years, which is even less likely than Jadeveon deciding to sit out 2013.
While I am 99% certain that Clowney's actions were in jest, I needed to get some pent up abandonment paranoia worked out in blog form.
With that out of the way, let us count the reasons Sorensen's advice is dumb:
1) Football, like any other craft, involves the cultivation of skills honed through repetition and developing muscle memory and building strength. The skill gained from the experience of playing 14 football games cannot be replicated by even the most rigorous training regimen.
2) People that choose playing football as their profession typically enjoy the hell out of playing football, and thus prefer playing football to not playing football.
3) Clowney deciding to sit out his junior year to avoid injury would be a signal to NFL franchises that he might not have the mental makeup required to sustain a long NFL career.
4) Former South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing famously said that Jadeveon Clowney was NFL-ready coming out of high school. That being the case, why just sit out your junior year? Why not sit out your sophomore year? Your freshman year?
5) It seems like Clowney being on the same team as Marcus Lattimore is the only reason we're having this conversation, doesn't it? People celebrated, not mourned Manti Te'o and Matt Barkley's decisions to return for their senior seasons, braving the risks of career ending injuries. Probably because they didn't have teammates that sustained gruesome but improbable injuries the prior season.