Injuries don't worry Marcus Lattimore

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore have talked since the football season ended, just not about injuries.

Yet that seems to be all everyone is talking about when it comes to the South Carolina duo. Lattimore, rehabbing from his horrific knee injury in hopes of being selected in the upcoming NFL draft, said recently that he and Clowney talk about what's ahead for them in football, not about what might go wrong.

"That's not something that's in my mind," he said.

Lattimore hasn't given Clowney any advice about the future, but would not trade his experience at South Carolina, even with two serious knee injuries.

"I don't regret anything," Lattimore said. "I know that everything happens for a reason."

Because of Lattimore's injury, questions have been raised on whether Clowney should skip this season, train on his own and protect a potential $22 million investment as the No. 1 pick in 2014. Clowney has said he's playing.

Still, he just finished his sophomore season and won't be eligible for the pros for another year. Several NFL draft analysts, including ESPN's Todd McShay, believe the 6-foot-6, 256-pound Clowney would go No. 1 this April. That's led to plenty of debate about Clowney's future.

"It gave everybody something to talk about," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.

Clowney's response so far has just been a simple comment on Twitter this week: "I'm playing lol."

Spurrier has talked with Clowney and said the All-American has goals to chase -- Clowney finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy race last year -- in college and won't quit on his teammates.

Clowney is in school and participating in team workouts. Spurrier expects him on the field when the team opens spring practice March 5.

But Clowney does have a few options to protect himself -- and his future.

He and his family can purchase up to $5 million worth of insurance under the NCAA's "Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Program." Qualifying athletes in football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and ice hockey, are eligible for a loan to help finance the cost of the policy, which they must repay upon signing a pro contract.

NCAA spokesman Chris Radford said there are between 75 and 100 athletes who take part in the program -- 80 percent of those are football players. It costs about $30,000 for athletes who purchase the maximum amount of insurance, Radford said.

Clowney said in December before the Outback Bowl he wasn't interested in insurance against getting hurt, though he might have a change of heart. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has said the coaches will make sure Clowney knows all his options.

There have been reports that Richard Salgado, the head of Coastal Advisors LLC, had been contacted by someone connected to Clowney about obtaining insurance.

Salgado's company offers insurance for pro athletes and lists Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Buffalo's C.J. Spiller among his clients. Salgado did not immediately return emails and calls from The Associated Press.

McShay said Clowney would be better off playing, that sitting out would raise unnecessary questions about Clowney's commitment. He said Clowney can also use the year to improve his strength and overall game, plus show the maturity of someone excelling despite the "outside noise."

Spurrier understands the outside discussion. He also said it shows those doing the talking don't fully understand the significance of team competition.

"They don't know how important it is for Jadeveon to be with his college team," said Spurrier, who earns $3.3 million a year. "You know there's more to life than how can you make a whole bunch of money."

It seems everyone has to say something about Clowney, which is nothing new for him.

He was the top prospect in college football two years ago and delayed his college announcement more than a week after signing day -- he waited until Valentine's Day, his birthday -- before selecting the Gamecocks.

Clowney was the Southeastern Conference freshman of the year that fall. He stepped up his game significantly this past season. Clowney forced a game-saving fumble late to defeat Tennessee and posted 4½ sacks in a win over rival Clemson in November.

He was third nationally with 13 sacks and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting.

Clowney's signature moment, though, came in the Outback Bowl when he hit Michigan running back Vincent Smith full-on, dislodging Smith's helmet before recovering the fumble with one hand in a 33-28 victory.

"That hit was something," Lattimore said.

Clowney appears to be preparing for an encore -- as a Gamecock.