CLEMSON — Tackle Grady Jarrett, keystone of Clemson’s defensive front, said he played with shoulder pain virtually all last season, the result of a torn labrum diagnosed after the seaosn-opener against Georgia.
“It was painful, but I had to stick through it because I wasn’t going to do no surgery during the season,” Jarrett said after Clemson’s second practice of the spring. “It got better as the season went along.”
With the shoulder strapped to minimize further aggravation, he declined to have surgery in early December, choosing to delay it until after the bowl game. “I had the option after the South Carolina game to get it before the Ohio State game, but I figured since I played the whole season with it, I didn’t know how I’d react to the surgery.”
Jarrett earned honorable mention all-conference after finishing his junior season third in team tackles (85). From the deepest trench, he was credited with 11 tackles for loss, two sacks and 14 quarterback pressures. He also recovered a pair of fumbles.
Two weeks after beating Ohio State, he had surgery.
“I’m still rehabbing, getting back to 100 percent,” he said. “I’m really glad I didn’t do it after the South Carolina game because it took me about six weeks just to get out here.”
Jarrett said he had ignored several stingers prior to the injury.
“When it went,” he said, “I told them just strap it up and let’s go.”
Having Jarrett provides another reason that coach Dabo Swinney believes his defense has the markings of an elite unit. Seven starters return from a defense that was 24th in scoring defense, 25th in total defense, 10th in turnovers forced and first in tackles for loss.
“We’ve got the personnel and the coaching staff to be if not one of the best, the best defense in the country,” Jarrett said. “We’ve got young real talent on the outside at corner, but other than that we’re all seasoned vets.
“The sky’s the limit if all believe in our coaches. Everything will take care of ourselves.”