FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who signed a two-year contract with a base value of $10 million as the New England Patriots top free agent this offseason, has persevered through multiple injuries over his career.
As he detailed in a Players Tribune piece in January, he had a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in 2012, a torn right bicep in 2014, a torn MCL and meniscus in 2016, and then a torn left bicep in the playoffs after the 2016 regular season.
Facing another challenging rehabilitation with his left bicep, Clayborn thought about retirement at that point.
“Ultimately I just prayed about it, with my wife, my family, and talking to my agent [Blake Baratz], and just coming to the decision that I wanted to play. I’m glad I made that decision to come back,” Clayborn said in an introductory conference call with Patriots reporters on Wednesday. “Getting over that hump was a big one, dealing with my fourth injury, but I’m trying to play as long as I can. As long as this body lets me.”
Clayborn, who turns 30 on July 6, said that in discussions with Patriots coaches he liked what he heard from them in terms of his possible role.
“It just kind of brings me back to my Iowa days where you have to work for what you get. I’m all for that,” he said. “I know I can rush the passer and set the edge in the running game. There are a couple different positions they believe I can play and it’s up to me to prove I can play them.”
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Clayborn, who entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice of the Buccaneers in 2011, described his playing style as “aggressive, hard-nosed” and added, “I like to play every play like it’s my last.”
Clayborn was mostly utilized as a sub rusher last season with the Falcons – where he said he appreciates what he learned from head coach Dan Quinn – and believes he could take on an expanded role if asked.
“That’s what people have pigeonholed me in – a third-down player. But I know I can play first, second, third down if need be,” he said.
Of overcoming personal adversity, such as Erb’s Palsy and losing a brother at a young age, Clayborn said, “You take the blows when they come and throw a couple back at times. Just learn to fight and scrap and keep going.”
While a string of injuries could have grounded him, he has done just that.