Jadeveon Clowney won New Year’s Day. It’s been downhill since then. (Al Messerschmidt / AP)

Jadaveon Clowney says he’s committed to playing for South Carolina. Gamecocks Coach Steve Spurrier said the injury that sidelined Clowney last weekend and touched off a controversy about the defensive lineman’s commitment to college football “was handled poorly” by his staff.

Clowney, the man who delivered a hit that was one of the top highlights of last season and seeminly can only be stopped by the NFL, was a late scratch Saturday because of a rib injury. The move caught his offensive-minded coach by surprise and he expressed his exasperation. On Tuesday, though, both Clowney and Spurrier said they aren’t at odds over whether Clowney is just filling out a uniform.

“Am I fully committed? Always,” Clowney said after practice. “I could’ve sat out [practice]. I’m not looking to sit out. I’m not that type of guy. I’m here for the team.”

The ol’ ball coach, clipping his words carefully Sunday, had said: “If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play,” Spurrier snipped. “Simple as that.”

On Tuesday, though, Spurrier was far more supportive.

“I just want to clear the air that Jadeveon — all those No. 7 jerseys and all the money he has made for our school — he has been a tremendous, important player,” Spurrier said. “Every Gamecock, including me, the coaches and everybody out there, we need to be appreciative that he chose South Carolina. He could have gone anywhere in the country. He’s a big reason we have had those seasons. He’s trying to do all he can to get ready to play.

“We all handled it poorly, all of us. … This was a situation that he had something that was really bothering him and hopefully it will be taken care of real soon.

“He is hurt. If he doesn’t play another down every Gamecock should be thankful he is here.”

Clowney, who said he hopes to play this weekend against Arkansas, said he’s committed to college ball. He acknowledged that “miscommunication” happened after he’d practiced Thursday and was announced with the starters Saturday, then told Spurrier he was a no-go because of bruised ribs.

“I should have handled it different, just telling them like that, but it was a miscommunication,” Clowney said. “They were responding to me going back and telling them exactly what was going on and then they figured out the injury really was more serious than what it was. You know, it was all right.”

Can’t blame Clowney, though, for being skittish. Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky points out that there are compelling reasons why Clowney’s heart may not be in it this season.

Clowney played two years with Marcus Lattimore, who saw his first-round projection disappear with a season-ending injury. Lattimore went as a fourth-round compensatory pick to San Francisco, signing for four years and $2.46 million, just $300,000 of that guaranteed. Say Clowney goes third: he’d get a contract similar to that of 2013 third overall pick Dion Jordan, who’s getting $20 million over four years, with about $13 million guaranteed.

He needn’t even fear injury. A disappointing year could cost him tens of millions, as Matt Barkley found out when he chose to return for his senior season. Clowney’s already had a slow start to his 2013, but it’s not clear how much of that is due to illness and injury, offenses running away from his side, or just not being able to live up to the hype. It’s in Clowney’s best interest to cut things short, and it carries no drawback. USA Today spoke to two NFL executives who agree that as long as he’s in shape and healthy coming into the draft, “no one cares” if his junior season is a wash.

Once more, for old time’s sake…

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