Top pick Clowney expects to play Sunday vs Titans

Houston Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) warms up before the NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Clowney has been injured and is questionable for the game. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic

HOUSTON (AP) Top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney is expected to play for the Houston Texans this weekend against the Tennessee Titans.

''I would be surprised if I didn't play,'' Clowney said Thursday.

The outside linebacker returned to practice last week for the first time since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He wasn't quite ready to play on Monday night against Pittsburgh, but feels better now and believes he'll be on the field on Sunday as the Texans try to snap a three-game skid.

Clowney is still experiencing some discomfort in his knee, but thinks that's just something he's going to have to deal with this season. He was asked if he thinks he's close to where he was before the injury.

''I have no clue right now,'' he said. ''I always feel like I can be better than I am now. So who knows, we'll see around game time.''

The rookie isn't concerned about nerves as he prepares to play again, but he is a bit concerned about other things after missing the last six games.

''I won't be nervous or jittery,'' he said. ''I'll just be out there trying to remember what I'm supposed to do on different assignments.''

If he does play, coach Bill O'Brien has said it will be in a limited capacity. Whitney Mercilus has been solid filling in for Clowney and O'Brien said he'll still get playing time when Clowney is back.

''We're not going to put him back in there and play 70-80 plays,'' O'Brien said. ''He's going to kind of (be) eased back into the rotation anyway. Whitney will still be out there, but that will be a competition ... you don't just hand it to a guy coming off of six weeks being out, especially when the other guy has played pretty well.''

Clowney, a former South Carolina standout, 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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