HOUSTON (AP) -- Jadeveon Clowney is expected to play in Houston's season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13.
Coach Bill O'Brien said Wednesday that the pass-rush specialist has looked good in practice and is improving every day.
"He wants to be in there more which is a great sign," O'Brien said. "That means he's probably feeling pretty good. A lot of it has to do with how he's feeling, how the knee's feeling. I think he feels decent and he's worked hard to get back to this point. And we'll just keep inching him forward to be able to go on that first game."
The top overall pick in the 2014 draft had microfracture surgery on his right knee in December and didn't return to practice until Aug. 17. He's feeling strong and is glad all the work he put in during rehabilitation is finally paying off.
He played just four games last season because of various injuries before the surgery. Clowney doesn't quite feel like himself yet after the longest layoff of his career and hopes more practice helps him improve.
"I told the guys, I'm rusty," he said. "I'm just trying to get as many reps as I can, tell the coach to put me in as much as possible, but they're not trying to really rush me back right now. We're just taking it one day at a time, working me in slow."
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney isn't worried about his knee and said he doesn't think about it at all when he's on the field. He was injured in his NFL debut last season and had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He played three games with one start after that, but never felt right and eventually had the more serious microfracture surgery on the same knee.
He's having a lot of fun now that he's finally back out there with his teammates, and the man who made a name for himself with hard hits at South Carolina broke into a huge smile when asked how it feels to hit people again.
"I'm hitting everybody, talking junk," he said. "That's what I do. I'm loving it."
The 22-year-old was asked to share some of his trash talk, but didn't feel like it was appropriate.
"You don't want none of that right now," he said with a grin. "You don't want to hear none of that."
He'll join a defense starring last year's Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and first-year Texan and veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Clowney admitted to trying to do too much last season in his limited time on the field and said a year of maturity has taught him how to avoid that trap.
"I was just trying to prove to the guys that I was worthy of being the number one pick," he said. "Just coming in here and assumed to be a leader around here because I was that number one pick. I was trying to do just about everything and trying to do it to my best, but you know, you try to overdo stuff sometimes and overthink some things. You got to slow down and play the game sometimes."
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