Jadeveon Clowney has been down this road before – one where at season's end, there's no telling where it leads next. He was in that position in 2018, playing out his fifth-year option with the Houston Texans.
He faces similar uncertainty this year as he's expected to become an unrestricted free agent in March. But while the contemplations of "what's next" consumed him in Houston, he's not letting such thoughts cloud his mind this time around.
"I haven't even thought about it," Clowney said on Wednesday.
That's because his Seattle Seahawks are 8-2, and he's hellbent on enjoying the ride. With six games left in 2019, Seattle has it all in front of them, including the potential No. 1 seed in the NFC. Clowney is all-in, believing the Seahawks are capable of making a Super Bowl run.
"We can do something special here, and I'm not looking past it," he said.
Part of the growing optimism in Seattle has to do with the five-sack outburst from the Seahawks pass rush in Week 10 against the 49ers. The pass rush, or lack thereof, had been Seattle's most glaring deficiency through nine games.
Clowney had five quarterback hits, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown in a game he dominated from start to finish. He said he's been that dominant "a few times" in his career, but it was a performance that the Seahawks needed in the worst way.
He ignited the rest of the team's slumbering defensive line. Jarran Reed had 1.5 sacks. Al Woods, Poona Ford and Quinton Jefferson also played well. Clowney called the pass rush "a work in progress," but he believes that things are beginning to click.
"We're just trying to figure each other out – spending time with each other, and it's starting to help and it's starting to pay off in the games," he said.
"Energy" was Clowney's operative word against the 49ers. Maintaining that energy will be crucial over Seattle's final six games.
"Run around and have a good time and good things happen," he explained. "That's what we did last game – we tried to have a good time. You could see us excited about it, running around, enjoying playing with each other, and everything was good coming our way."
Clowney has been Seattle's best defensive lineman by far, even if the sack numbers don't show it (he's got just three this season). But turn on the tape of any Seahawks game and you'll notice that Clowney is the only player who has consistently generated pressure.
He's not worried about his own numbers, but he knows the group as a whole needs to replicate its production vs. the 49ers.
"I don't care who gets (the sack) or when it happens, just get (the quarterback)," Clowney said. "We hadn't had them in so long, and we needed some."
He explained his two-plus months in Seattle have been nothing but positive since the Seahawks acquired him just days before the regular season on Aug. 31. Clowney credited defensive line coach Clint Hurtt with teaching him to use his hands more as well as the importance of pass rush angles.
He's mentioned multiple times in the past that Seattle's weather is an adjustment, but it doesn't seem like life in the Pacific Northwest has truly set in for him.
"It's been wild – this whole experience; this whole year has just been mind-blowing for me," Clowney said.
Seattle isn't able to re-sign the star edge rusher until after the season, but contract talks haven't even begun according to Clowney. All we know is that the Seahawks agreed not to use the franchise tag on him.
It's hard to imagine Clowney passing up an opportunity to hit the open market, but that's a different conversation for a different day as far as he's concerned. Clowney has played in three-career playoff games – none bigger than the AFC divisional round. He's hoping that changes this season with Seattle.
Jadeveon Clowney mum on his future, has Super Bowl aspirations with Seahawks originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest