Falcons tab Clowney for private workout

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Maybe Jadeveon Clowney will get his wish to play for the Falcons.

He’ll get a private audience with team officials, at least.

After his Pro Day workout at South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium on Wednesday, Clowney said the Falcons had been in touch to set up a private workout. This is after Clowney, a star defensive end for the Gamecocks, said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February that he would like for the Falcons to trade up for him.

Of course, just because the Falcons are bringing Clowney in for a workout doesn’t mean they want to trade up from No. 6 in the draft order or will have the chance to do so. But they are getting all the information they can to decide Clowney’s worth if the opportunity comes up.

The Texans could make any maneuvering moot by selecting Clowney with the No. 1 pick. Clowney met with Texans representatives Tuesday night in South Carolina, and he’s scheduled to visit Houston later this month, according to general manager Rick Smith.

Clowney said he should be the No. 1 overall pick.

“What you think?” Clowney said. “If you ask a guy that and they say, ‘No,’ I don’t know what they are doing out there. Yes, I think I should be.”

The Texans are among four teams drafting ahead of the Falcons that need a quarterback. The Rams already have Sam Bradford at quarterback and could draft Clowney with the No. 2 pick, but they likely will be tempted by several trade offers from teams.

There are reasons for teams to have doubts about Clowney, even beyond the normal nit-picking that happens with all prospects before the draft.

His production plummeted from his sophomore to junior seasons: sacks down to three from 13, total tackles for loss to 11.5 from 23.5. A foot injury slowed him, though Clowney said it’s not a problem anymore.

Critics have questioned Clowney’s work ethic. Even Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, blunt as ever, called it just “OK” before noting that few can perform like Clowney on game day.

Clowney said he understands the scrutiny, but believes it’s not fair.

“Work ethic is not a problem,” he said. “I come out here every Saturday and play my hardest on that field. You might look at me and say, ‘Oh, he looks tired.’ But if you look around me, I’m not the only one on that field who looks tired.

“I believe football is a long game. You are going to get winded sometimes. That’s why you have a rotation (of backups).”

Scouts, personnel executives and coaches from several NFL teams watched Clowney closely as he and other Gamecocks prospects participated in high-intensity workouts on a warm day. The Falcons’ contingent included Southeast scout Anthony Robinson, outside linebackers coach Mark Collins and defensive line coach Bryan Cox.

Collins put Clowney through some drills in which he tested his ability to drop into coverage and react to the quarterback. Clowney’s superlative athletic ability means the team that drafts him likely will use him as a linebacker at times. Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan used veteran Kroy Biermann in a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role last season.

Clowney was superb in timing drills at the combine, but didn’t work out on the field in Indianapolis. That’s why his Wednesday drills drew more attention than they may have otherwise.

“We hadn’t seen a lot of movement in space,” Smith said. “That was probably the biggest thing you saw today. There was no doubt that he was athletic enough to do some of that stuff, but it’s good to get it confirmed.”

The Falcons will get another chance for a close look at Clowney. In February he based his interest in the Falcons on the former South Carolina teammates on the roster and the proximity to his Rock Hill, S.C., home.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff brushed off Clowney’s comments, saying he was flattered by Clowney’s interest, but figured Clowney was telling all teams to trade up for him. Dimitroff reiterated that the Falcons are “open for business” when it comes to the possibility of trades, a standard posture for teams drafting high in the order.