Dallas Cowboys test top pick Morris Claiborne on first play

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 25, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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IRVING -- The Dallas Cowboys didn't move up from 14th to sixth in the 2012 NFL Draft to take LSU standout cornerback Morris Claiborne and have him sitting on the sideline.

That they plan on his being a big part of the defense was another reason why the Cowboys gave in during contract negotiations, conceding the offset-language issue.

So it was no surprise that on the first day of rookie training camp, which was actually the first day of work for Claiborne, who missed off-season and minicamps because of a wrist surgery, that they went right after him on the first play of team drills.

Although the deep ball fell incomplete to receiver Tim Benford, who had gotten behind Claiborne, the point was made.

"I know I've got to get out there," a smiling Claiborne said. "They're not going to wait on me, just like I came out here today and they didn't try to ease me in. They threw me right in there and had me go get out there, and I was looking forward to that. I knew they were coming [after me]. During game times, I know they're coming. We did a good job of playing it. I got a little behind on it, but the corner from the other side came over and gave me some good help."

Claiborne is expected to start at right cornerback opposite Brandon Carr. He knows NFL opponents will come after him, just as the Cowboys did, and he better be ready from Day 1.

That's why missing the off-season with a wrist injury was a huge setback for Claiborne, and why it was important for him to get his contract signed and be in camp on time. There was no offset language, which protects a club giving guaranteed money to a draft pick.

Claiborne agreed on a four-year deal Monday.

"That was critical," coach Jason Garrett said. "I don't think there was any doubt on either side that he was going to be here for Day 1."

Claiborne said he got a little worried when camp got to be a week away and there was still no deal.

"I've got some pretty good agents ... and I put it in their hands and they did a good job," Claiborne said. "I feel like I missed enough time already, so the quicker I could get in here, I was looking forward to it."

Claiborne was so eager to finally get to work that he woke up at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

He was clearly rusty, which showed in his coverage at times and his struggles in fielding punts, something he hasn't done since his college finale. He also needs to work on his conditioning.

"I was just ready to get my feet wet and run around a little bit," Claiborne said. "It was good to be out here today, got my legs back under. Well, I'm trying to get them back under. I got a chance to run around a little bit. It was good."

Claiborne is healthy, on the field and finally ready to live up to the lofty draft-day expectations.

"It's hard to estimate how behind he is," Garrett said. "He is a rookie trying to play in the NFL. This is his first practice. We had 12 practices in the spring. He missed all of those. He was very engaged in the team. We will practice tomorrow and practice on Friday then go to camp and start up again on Monday. So he will get a lot of work in a short period of time."

Clarence E. Hill Jr.


Twitter: @clarenchilljr

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