HOUSTON – No. 1 draft pick Jadeveon Clowney, coming off sports hernia surgery in early June, joined the Houston Texans in a practice without pads Saturday to open the team's training camp.
"Just looking forward to getting back in and mixing, just looking forward to the season," said the 6-foot-6, 266-pound outside linebacker from South Carolina.
Clowney looked nimble and quick on his feet in some early agility drills. He did not take part in 11-on-11 drills during the last half hour of practice. Veterans Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus were the outside linebackers with the first unit during them.
"He's practicing and he's rehabbing. We're staying with the rehab protocol, which allows him to practice a little bit. We just stick with that and he'll be fine," said new Texans coach Bill O'Brien.
The Texans will put on the pads for the first time Monday, but it's unclear when Clowney will be cleared to do so.
"We'll see where we're at when we get to that day," said O'Brien, who will go by what the training staff tells him.
"Just like every guy that is coming off a surgery that is out there. Everybody has a different level of restriction. … We do that and these guys are edgy, they want to get going, but it's a long season. So we bring them back at their pace. When they're ready to go, they'll go."
Sports hernia surgery is done to correct a muscle/tendon issue in the area of the groin and lower abdomen.
"I started running like the third week, second week (after the surgery)," said Clowney.
His regimen post-surgery: "Studied the playbook, worked out, treatment, just about everything to better myself and get back."
In 2012, Clowney had 13 sacks at South Carolina. His sack total dropped off to three last season.
But Houston, coming off a 2-14 finish, drafted him to rush the passer. A defensive end at South Carolina, he is making the transition here to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
"I'm a lot better than what I was. I learned a lot of the playbook already. … We've just got to keep pushing and being better every day," he said. " … I feel comfortable. I've still got a lot of work to do. Just keep getting better and better each day."
The Texans had a big crowd and live music for the opening day of practice. With a high temperature of 94 expected, the Texans started the 2 ½-hour session at 8 a.m. It was still hot and humid.
"It's very exciting," said Clowney. "It was exciting when I first got here, guys I looked up to coming to the NFL, J.J. Watt and guys like that. … Now that I'm here it's even better."
Watt, a two-time Pro Bowler at defensive end, was asking immediately after reporting Friday whether he was excited to team up with Clowney. Watt downplayed that.
"I'm looking forward to playing with all my teammates," said Watt.
How exciting will it be to see what a No. 1 pick can bring to the defense?
"It will be exciting to see all the rookies and see how they perform and how they handle the situation," Watt said. "Training camp is a good time for rookies to get their feet wet. Once we finally put the pads on, it will be a good opportunity to see how they perform in a situation like that. So it will be exciting."
Clowney on the big challenge his first day: "No real challenge just running around, learning the playbook still, being alert. … One day at a time, getting better, rehabbing and see where it goes."
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