What's said to the public cannot be taken back.
Following the Kentucky game, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier commented on his star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney not playing, setting the table for wild speculation. Speculation that puts Clowney in a tough situation.
Despite Spurrier mentioning that Clowney was battling a strained muscle over the rib during his Sunday teleconference, as reported by Josh Kendall of The State, the original comment will remain what sticks with folks:
Spurrier on Clowney: "If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) October 6, 2013
And Spurrier cannot take that back.
The defensive end has already battled issues with staying in shape following the start of the 2013 season against North Carolina. Now, his own coach is adding to the problem by publicly shaming the player he is supposed to be working with to pursue a common goal.
Spurrier has long been a "say what he feels" coach, but usually the feathers that ended up ruffled were those of opponents or the media. With his comments on Clowney, even as the longer quotes explain that he is interested in protecting his players' health, Spurrier has rattled his own team's cage.
While there is no evidence suggesting Spurrier believes Clowney is a quitter or thinks the junior is saving himself for the NFL, it is a conclusion to which many have already jumped, as shown by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Andy Johnston. Nevermind Spurrier stating the situation is not a big deal in Sunday's teleconference:
Hopefully with treatment and so forth he will be well enough to play this coming week but we will see. It’s not a big story. He was in pain, couldn’t play. We will see if he’s going to be in pain and not play or not in pain and can play this week.
Clowney is one of the biggest stories in college football, and everyone is looking to knock the preseason All-American down a peg. ESPN's Paul Finebaum recently capitalized on the opportunity:
Admire Spurrier clowning Clowney. USC plays next at Arky, Jadeveon, if you're interested. Or you could sit until higher profile game.— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) October 6, 2013
Spurrier cannot undo his original words at the press conference. Despite explaining the injury to people and making it clear that Clowney's facing an actual issue, the chatter revolves around the original comment.
It is not right, but that's how things are in the current climate of rapid responses and quick takes. And because of that, the issues surrounding the latest Clowney stories are courtesy of Spurrier. Following the preseason hype and the showing against UNC, critics are champing at the bit to deliver critiques.
The door has been opened by Spurrier, and there is no closing it.