HOUSTON (AP) No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney returned to practice on Friday and hopes to play on Monday night when Houston visits Pittsburgh.
Clowney practiced Friday in a limited capacity for the first time since the defensive standout at South Carolina had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
''I've always been looking forward to making plays for my team and helping us win,'' Clowney said. ''I hope I can play, but we'll see.''
Coach Bill O'Brien said they'll decide before the game on Monday if he can play, and while hopeful that he can go, Clowney said he wouldn't be surprised if he can't. The 6-foot-6, 274-pound Clowney said he remains limited despite being almost six weeks removed from the surgery.
''Right now it's up to me what I can do,'' he said. ''I'm out there really testing my leg out, just seeing what I can really do and what I can't do. So if I can do it, I'll do it. If I can't I'll just let the coaches know: `that's bothering me,' and they'll just take me out of that drill.''
O'Brien said he'll consult with Clowney and the team trainer before making a final decision. If he does play, he'll likely be used sparingly to ease him back into things.
''At the end of the day, that's the most important thing. What's the best thing for the player,'' O'Brien said. ''He's worked hard to get back to this point. Good to see him out there (Friday). I'm sure he'll go out there and work (Sunday) ... and Monday he'll tell us what he's going to do.''
The Texans could certainly use him to help beef up a pass rush that has managed just 10 sacks this season, which is tied for 19th in the league.
''I'm very anxious to be out there with my teammates playing in an NFL game since I haven't played since the first game,'' Clowney said. ''I'm looking forward to playing again and I'm just taking it one day at a time getting healthy.''
The outside linebacker was injured in the season-opener on Sept. 7 and had surgery the next day. It was the third injury for Clowney since he was drafted in May. He had sports hernia surgery in the offseason and suffered a concussion during training camp.
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