INDIANAPOLIS — Charged with periodic indifference during his career at South Carolina, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t seem to care that NFL executives have questions about his work ethic.
He completed the easy part of the combine workout on Monday and then skipped out of the more difficult part — position drills on the field — leaving more red flags in his wake.
“A man with that much athletic ability didn’t want to show it today,” NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp said.
Clowney ran a dazzling 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which was the top time among defensive linemen and mind-boggling for a man weighing 266 pounds. He had a vertical jump of 37.5 inches (second) and a broad jump of 10 feet, 4 inches (second).
Clowney was not as impressive with his weight-lifting, pressing 225 pounds just 21 times, a meek effort for a defensive lineman. Boston College’s Kaleb Ramsey was tops with 36 lifts.
“On Pro Day (at South Carolina), I’m just going to show up and do my field work,” Clowney said during an NFL Network interview.
He said some teams tried to prod him into the full workout.
“That’s their job, to test you and see how you react,” Clowney said. “I think I handled it pretty well.”
A teammate at South Carolina, quarterback Connor Shaw of Flowery Branch High in Georgia, believes it’s ridiculous to question Clowney’s work ethic.
“I played with him for three years,” Shaw said. “I was with him behind closed doors and I can tell you, if a team passes up on him, they are going to wish that they had him. I was very fortunate that he was on my team for three years.”
The Falcons brushed off a report that Clowney wants to play in Atlanta because it’s close to his Rock Hill, S.C., home.
“That’s great to hear that, but I’m sure he’s saying that to everyone as well. … We will always be open to move up and back (in draft order). Depends on what’s right for us,” Falcons general Thomas Dimitroff said during an interview on the NFL Network.
The Falcons were among the teams hoping to see Clowney complete his workout.
“He’s got the measurables that you are looking for,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Obviously, we (were) all anxious to see him perform here at the combine to validate those measurables.”
South Carolina’s Pro Day is set for April 2. The Falcons will be in attendance.
“He has similar measurables to (Buffalo’s) Mario Williams,” Smith said. “When you’re talking about a defensive end, he fits the criteria of what you’re looking for. And of course, Mario went on to become the No. 1 pick in the draft.”
NFL scouts were interested in Clowney’s response to his slacker’s reputation, a theory that would appear to be supported after a major statistical dropoff last season. He went from 54 tackles in 2012 to 40 in 2013 and from 13 sacks down to 3.
“With a player like Clowney, it’s amazing how many things you can overlook when you’re dealing with the incredible talent of a football player like that,” Dimitroff said. “With that said, it precipitates more effort and research to find out exactly why he did dip and what you’re dealing with.”
Sapp and NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock concurred that Clowney has major drawbacks, in part because of his potential and athletic gifts. They question if he would work hard for all four quarters of the game.
“I’m ashamed to look at it,” Sapp said of Clowney’s film from last season. “I have to press pause, get up and walk around the room to calm myself down. … Because I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ There is no way this kid is allowing this tape to be sent around the country. … There is no aggressiveness. No hunt.”
Dimitroff clearly doesn’t expect Clowney to be around if the Falcons retain the sixth overall pick.
“Anytime that you’re picking someone in the top five, potentially top two in his situation, you better have your T’s crossed and your I’s dotted as far as the makeup, character and the fit with this individual for your team,” Dimitroff said.