Jadeveon Clowney says he didn't practice hard last season

South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney told the New York Times, among other things, that he did not practice hard during the best season of his college career to date, when he posted 13.5 sacks in 2012. The star junior, who is expected to declare early eligibility for the 2014 NFL Draft, also indicated that bone spurs in his foot that will require postseason surgery is not the only injury giving him problems this season.

"My practice habits have picked up way more than they did last year," Clowney said. "Last year, I really didn't practice real hard. This year, I came in with a different mind-set, like I want to be that guy, I want to have no flaws in my game."

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And with that, count practice habits among the mounting list of questions about Clowney's mental makeup that NFL clubs will explore when and if the projected first-round pick declares early eligibility. The context of Clowney's remarks, clearly, is that his poor practice habits are a thing of the past. But that doesn't mean he won't have to answer for them before being drafted, as inquiries about prospects delve far deeper than just a year.

Clowney also had an interesting remark about the muscle strain in his rib cage that compelled him to sit out South Carolina's game against Kentucky. And he had the sound of a player who doesn't want complaints about pain to be misconstrued.

"It still bothers me a lot," Clowney said. "But I keep that to myself."

Clowney mentioned last month that he will have postseason surgery on painful bone spurs in his right foot. Now, perhaps with more toughness than anyone knows, he is apparently playing through two injuries.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.