Top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney will have a second surgery on his right knee, ending his rookie season for the Houston Texans after just three games.
The former South Carolina star visited Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesday to have the knee examined and coach Bill O'Brien announced the news on Thursday.
"This guy's been injured and it's time to clean it up and get him back to feeling good and get him back on the field as soon as we can," O'Brien said.
The outside linebacker was injured in Week 1 and had arthroscopic surgery Sept. 8. He has played three games since then, but has never completely recovered from the procedure and said last week that he's still in a lot of pain.
O'Brien lauded the 21-year-old for trying to fight through this injury and stay on the field. He saw his most extensive action of the season against the Bengals on Nov. 23 when he was in for about 50 plays and had three tackles, including one for a loss. But he experienced swelling in his knee after that and missed his eighth game of the year last week.
"He's a tough kid," O'Brien said. "He tried to go out there and play in the Cincinnati game. He came back in the first Tennessee game — he really wanted to play. He really wanted to be out there for his teammates. But at the end of the day he wasn't able to do the things that he really wants to do to be the player that he can be."
O'Brien wouldn't give details of Clowney's surgery or when it will be performed. Clowney didn't speak to the media on Thursday, but O'Brien talked about how he's dealing with his latest setback.
"He wants to play football. He wants to be good so I think he was disappointed right off the bat," O'Brien said. "But I think he understands what he has to do and why this is necessary and he knows that he has to rehab hard and get back out there."
Clowney has had a difficult time since Houston took him first in this year's draft, eager to put him on a defense already featuring rush specialist J.J. Watt. He left a dual practice Aug. 20 after a helmet-to-helmet hit with Denver Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme. He missed the Texans' final two preseason games, but said he passed the NFL protocols for head injuries in just over a week. He had to sit out the beginning of camp, too, after offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia.
The Texans drafted Clowney after a three-year career at South Carolina in which he had 130 tackles, 24 sacks, 47 tackles for losses and 20 quarterback pressures. He also caused a school-record nine fumbles and deflected seven passes. The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney also set a school record with 13 sacks in 2012.
Houston will continue relying on Whitney Mercilus to fill in for Clowney on Sunday at Jacksonville. Mercilus, who was the 26th pick in the 2012 draft, has started 10 games this season and has 43 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble.
"Whitney has really done a good job this year," O'Brien said. "He's a very improved player ... I think this guy has worked extremely hard to try to become a better player. I think you've seen that on the field."