Jadeveon Clowney has grown tired of injuries, late starts to training camps and general uncertainty about where he'll be playing his first NFL game every season.
All of those factors have clouded Clowney, the first overall pick of the 2014 draft, for the past four seasons. In that span, he's played with four teams, dealt with several injuries and has struggled to find the same consistency many believed would pin Clowney as one of the top defensive ends in football.
But as he settles into his first training camp with the Browns in Berea, everything is all clear — and Clowney believes his best is yet to come.
"I'm just happy to be in camp," he said Wednesday before practice. "It's been a while, a few years now. I'm looking forward to this training camp, getting out here with the guys and getting back into football.
"I don't think I've reached my potential yet."
Check out photos from the seventh day of Browns Camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus
Clowney has provided plenty of evidence so far in training camp that he's ready for a big season, and much of it was provided Tuesday in the first padded practice of training camp, when he was nearly unblockable for the entirety of 11-on-11 drills.
All-Pro RT Jack Conklin did all he could to handle the 6-foot-5, 255-pound end, but Clowney's a Pro Bowler, too, and he found ways to reach the backfield. The defense isn't supposed to lay a finger on the quarterback in training camp, but it's clear Clowney would've been in for a multi-sack day had the opposing side been wearing different helmets.
"He has been disruptive, certainly in the run and the pass game," head coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday. "He is a long athlete with power. He and Jack Conklin, that is two pros going at each other. It's fun to watch. I think he's fitting into what we are doing and who we are. This is the first time at length he is around his teammates. I think he's assimilating well."
Clowney has spoken plenty of how well he thinks he can fit in Cleveland ever since he signed his deal with the Browns in April. He wanted to play with a Super Bowl-caliber team and believes the Browns have assembled one.
The idea of playing opposite of Myles Garrett, however, was a reason alone for Clowney to come onboard. Both players have dominated at times throughout camp and will be one of the toughest duos opposing offenses will face all season. Quarterbacks will have extra homework to do when the Browns are on the schedule, and it's reasonable to believe both players could reach double-digit sack totals in 2021.
"I think what stands out the most about Myles is he works hard, for one," Clowney said. "The way he bends and stays low the whole time — he's got some crazy bend moves. I told him, you have two moves and you use them very, very well, and it's basically unstoppable.
"So good luck for the tackles out there stopping that dude this year. I'm just happy to be on his team, playing beside him because I think it's going to help me out this year."
Health has helped Clowney so far, too, and after a smooth offseason, one he said was "one of the best offseasons I've had working out," he believes his body is in good form to endure the physical battles of a full year.
All veterans on the Browns have been eased into camp so far and have received limited reps, but when Clowney's been on the field, he's been among the most noticeable defensive players.
"When you're healthy, you have a lot of fun," he said. "When you're taking care of your body, you're in good health and you know what you love, I think it's fun and exciting to be out there moving around and feeling good."
Clowney hasn't been able to put a full focus on his training camp performances for the last three seasons. In 2018, he was eased into camp as he recovered from a knee injury. In 2019, he was traded midway through training camp to the Seattle Seahawks and had to learn a new defensive system days before Week 1. In 2020, he didn't even have an NFL home until the Titans signed him in the middle of the regular season.
Now, Clowney is as settled as it gets for an NFL veteran. His body is healthy, and his performance suggests he's poised to harass quarterbacks every time he's on the field.
That's what the Browns hoped to see when they added Clowney as the final free-agent piece to their re-loaded defense, and Clowney looks plenty capable of cashing in.
"This is probably the best change that I have had as far as getting involved with the team before I just got to them in one year," he said. "I'm looking for a big outcome out of that this year."