Mike Vrabel a key cog in Jadeveon Clowney comeback

Jadeveon Clowney couldn't come back from the knee injury by himself.

He had to bear many responsibilities.

Working on a daily basis.

Following the regimen provided.

Steeling his mind against the pain, doubt and discouragement that would inevitably come along the nine-month journey.

He was the most important man in the comeback processs, for sure. But he needed help.

Not just from the doctor who performed the surgery, or the team's medical training staff.

Head strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald has been an important part of the process.

Countless others have contributed in ways large and small to Clowney's return.

Another name to remember now though, is Mike Vrabel's. The football workload for Clowney has  increased, since rejoining his teammates on Monday. And his position coach has seen a distinct change in year number two with the Texans.

"The one thing I've noticed is his attitude is better," Vrabel said on Thursday. "His attitude is much better, and I know that last year he was frustrated because he got hurt. I mean you get hurt in this league as a young player, it's hard to handle."

Clowney's star-crossed 2014 saw him suit up for four regular season games and undergo the surgeon's knife three different times. The final procedure of that trio was microfracture surgery in early December,

and Vrabel said it will stick with Clowney for the rest of his career.

"I think he's starting to realize that he's going to have to play with a little bit of discomfort, he's going to be sore, for the rest of his career," Vrabel said. "That's how it goes in the National Football League. He's seeing those things and I think he's getting some advice from his teammates and good advice and is trying to come out here with a great attitude."

Bill O'Brien has stressed that Clowney's workload will increase incrementally. The head coach is also full of praise for Clowney's football acumen.

"He's a bright football player," O'Brien said. "He's come out here and he understands the scheme, he knows what we're talking about, so he's been paying attention in the meetings that he's been in and now it's just more of a matter of getting into football shape." 

For Clowney, part of that learning process has been helped by Vrabel.

"Vrabel might be the smartest coach I ever had," Clowney said. "He's a smart coach, he'll put you in the right places to make plays, and you need a guy like that to help you."

Vrabel deflected the praise by joking that Clowney "hasn't been around that many coaches" in his football life. But he does appreciate the kind words.

"He's out here working, and trying to back, get his confidence back, get out here on the practice field and start working into the games," Vrabel said.

If all goes according to the plan, that will be sooner than originally expected for Clowney and the Texans.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 4/16/2021)

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