RENTON — The high point of Jadeveon Clowney’s four months with the Seahawks occurred the last time Seattle played the 49ers, a spectacular performance that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors and seemed to herald a turnaround for the Seahawks defense.
The low point has been almost everything that has happened since.
Clowney suffered what he now knows is a core muscle injury in that game — something he began feeling in the second quarter — which has contributed to him playing in just two of five games since that Nov. 11 night in Santa Clara.
But as the Seahawks and 49ers get set for a rematch Sunday in Seattle that will decide the NFC West title, Clowney said nothing will keep him off the field.
“There’s no way I’m not playing,’’ Clowney said to a throng of reporters in the Seahawks’ locker room before Thursday’s practice. “I’m playing.’’
So, scratch the designations of questionable or doubtful that have hung on him most of the past five weeks.
Clowney remembers first feeling the injury creep up early in the game against the 49ers but having no real idea what it was.
“I thought I got kicked or hit,’’ he said, pointing to the inside of his upper leg. “I didn’t really know — did I get hit or something? I was just trying to fight through it.’’
Adrenaline, he said, carried him the rest of the way on a night when he played a season-high 69 snaps, on the field for 83% of all available plays in Seattle’s 27-24 overtime win.
“Then when I calmed down and we were going out to the bus it was like I can barely lift my leg,’’ he said. “What is going on? But it was a good game and we won that game so it didn’t really matter at the time until I woke up the next day and it was like, ‘Oh, something is wrong.’’’
The Seahawks had their bye the following week and Clowney figured the injury was still no big deal so he wasn’t really seriously checked out until the next week, before the game at Philadelphia.
Then, the severity became apparent and Clowney flew to Philadelphia a day ahead of the team to be examined by noted sports hernia specialist Dr. William Meyers.
There, he was told surgery is really the only way to fix the injury, which is similar to one he had before his rookie season with Houston in 2014. He had surgery that summer (he later suffered a knee injury that held him to four games that year).
But surgery now would have meant the end of Clowney’s season.
Clowney on Thursday shrugged at the idea that he was making any real sacrifice by continuing to play, saying he thinks everyone in the Seattle locker room would do the same thing.
“I’ve always said if I can finish, always finish,’’ he said. “I never wanted to quit anything. … I’m sure there’s a lot of guys playing through injury on this team. I’m just trying to be out there.
“But it’d be selfish for myself to do that (have surgery), to not go if I could and not give them everything I’ve got. I’d have to be a selfish person and I’m not no selfish person. Get out there with my guys and let the chips fall where they may.’’
He returned to play against the Vikings and Rams, on the field for 80% of the snaps against Minnesota, a game in which he forced a fumble that helped key a 37-30 win.
But as he revealed Thursday, things began to take another downturn six days later in Los Angeles when he woke up feeling the beginnings of the flu.
“The day of (the game) I woke up, I’m sick, and the next day it got worse and the next day it got worse,’’ he said.
He played through it against the Rams but played just 59% of the snaps, a season low.
The following week he sat out most of practices before trying to come back on the Friday the team was leaving for Carolina.
That he practiced led to the hope that he could play against the Panthers.
Instead, as coach Pete Carroll later said, he was “violently ill’’ during the workout and it became clear that he couldn’t make the trip east and play, so he was held home.
As Clowney said, “too much coughing’’ wasn’t good for the core injury, and that contributed to him again being out last week against Arizona.
But a healthy week off, he said, has him feeling the best he has since suffering the injury. And, maybe in the best-case scenario, being able to replicate what was one of the best defensive performances in Seahawks history when he had five quarterback hits, a forced fumble, a sack and a fumble returned for a touchdown.
“For sure I’m in a way better place (than last week),’’ Clowney said. “It helps just knowing like if we get this one we potentially get a bye. So I’m just trying to play for that right now and hopefully get through the next week and calm it down and then play the next one. That’s my whole game plan right now — help us win this game, get that bye, heal up again and get the next one and try to put them together.’’