HOUSTON — Top overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney says he will start Saturday’s preseason opener at Arizona after missing practice time this week with an undisclosed injury. Clowney’s proclamation seemed to catch Texans coach Bill O’Brien by surprise.
Clowney returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out the last three workouts. Clowney had sports hernia surgery on June 12, missed the team’s three-day minicamp and has been limited in training camp. He hurt himself late in Saturday’s workout, but was back on the field Thursday. He participated in some team drills, chasing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick out of bounds on one play.
“Felt great,” Clowney said. “Trying to get back into the groove, practicing again.”
Clowney wouldn’t say what exactly kept him out this week, saying only that the team was “being very careful.” But he said definitively that he would start Saturday’s game, although he stopped shy of saying he was 100 percent healthy.
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “It means a lot, being out there with my teammates, learning what to do. Just getting that first initial contact with another, an opposite team now and just learning what other guys do in this league. It’s going to be great for me.”
Clowney is listed as a starting linebacker on the depth chart for Saturday’s game, but O’Brien was taken aback when told that Clowney told media he was starting.
“He’ll start? Really?” O’Brien said. “That’s news to me. We’ll find out when the game starts.”
The former standout defensive end at South Carolina is moving to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s system and says he still has plenty to learn. But he was eager to make an impression in his first NFL game, no matter how sparingly he might play.
“I’m very excited, man, something I’ve dreamed about, something I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” he said. “It’s coming up fast and I’m just looking forward to it.”
RIVERA UNCERTAIN about playing Newton: In Spartanburg, S.C., coach Ron Rivera said he’s unsure if quarterback Cam Newton will play in the Carolina Panthers’ preseason opener Friday night against the Buffalo Bills.
Newton did not participate in team drills during practice Thursday. Rivera said he’ll likely make a decision after Newton meets with trainer Ryan Vermillion.
Newton had surgery on his left ankle in March. He had participated in all drills before being limited Wednesday and Thursday.
Rivera says “we want to make sure we do it right. We want to make sure he’s ready to roll and he can protect himself.”
Derek Anderson will start if Newton doesn’t play.
Minnesota president: Keep Redskins name out of stadium: In Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota said it’s working with the Minnesota Vikings to keep the Washington Redskins’ nickname from being used when the two teams play on campus in November.
University President Eric Kaler gave the assurances in a letter to U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat who has said using the name would violate school policies on equity and diversity.
The Vikings are playing home games at TCF Bank Stadium the next two seasons while their new stadium is being built.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the organization is sensitive to the issue.
He said the Vikings are obligated by the NFL to market the Nov. 2 game as they would any game, and the team will continue talking with university and Native American community leaders as the game nears.
AP source: Golisano submits bid to buy TEAM: In Buffalo, N.Y., former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano has entered the running to purchase the Buffalo Bills.
A person familiar with the sale process confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday that Golisano submitted a non-binding bid to the banking firm overseeing the sale. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sale is private.
The Buffalo News first reported Golisano’s entry earlier in the day.
In the meantime, Bills officials have begun meeting with prospective ownership groups that have already submitted bids.
Kicker Kevin Goessling signed: In Napa, Calif., the Oakland Raiders have signed free agent kicker Kevin Goessling.
General manager Reggie McKenzie announced the move Thursday, a day before Oakland’s exhibition opener in Minnesota. The Raiders waived kicker and punter Michael Palardy with a non-football illness to make room on the roster.
Goessling participated on a tryout basis at Oakland’s rookie mini-camp this past May. He played 52 games at Fresno State from 2008-11. He scored 373 points and converted 61 of 81 field goal attempts during his collegiate career.