The view from the sideline is familiar, all too familiar, to Morris Claiborne. If it isn’t a knee, it’s a shoulder. If it isn’t his left shoulder, it’s his right.
The Dallas Cowboys’ third-year cornerback returned to individual drills this week, but he has yet to be cleared for contact on his injured right shoulder. Instead, during team drills, Claiborne is watching, shadowing and waiting. Yet again.
“I have [wondered why], but I’m here,” Claiborne said. “I can’t do anything else about it. I don’t have any control over it. I’m just doing what I can do and doing what I can to help myself prepare and get ready for when it’s time to get let go, I’ll get on the ground running and have no doubts.”
Claiborne had off-season surgery on his left shoulder, which kept him out of part of the off-season. He injured his right knee July 30 and missed nine days of training camp. In his fifth day back to full strength, Claiborne fell hard on his shoulder when he got tangled with Oakland receiver Andre Holmes during joint practices with the Raiders.
Claiborne sprained the AC joint, and, a week later, he said his right shoulder still is not 100 percent.
It is a familiar refrain.
“We’re for practice,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re for preseason games. We’re an advocate of all these things. We think it’s good to practice and play and get yourself an opportunity to get some experience — for all players, not just young players. For whatever reason, he’s had some issues that have prevented him from doing that, but that’s just what the situation is.
“So you get that thing healthy; you come back as soon as you can come back; you get as many reps as you can get to get yourself ready for the season. It’s as simple as that. We focus on controlling what we can control, and we emphasize that to our players and to our coaches and in his case, it’s just simply try to get better, try to get back as quickly as you can.”
Claiborne has missed nine of 11 preseason games in his career. Owner Jerry Jones said earlier this week that the Cowboys likely will hold Claiborne out of Saturday’s exhibition game against the Miami Dolphins.
Claiborne could play the final preseason game, traditionally a game the starters sit.
“At this point, I feel like I’m in a good place,” Claiborne said. “The coaches are in a good place with how things are going. I know we both wish things will speed up with the recovery, and I can get back on the field faster, but we’re where we are right now.”
Claiborne was supposed to be a star by now after the Cowboys moved up in the first round of the 2012 draft to nab him sixth overall. He and Brandon Carr, who was signed as a free agent that same year, were expected to solve the Cowboys’ secondary problems.
But injures have dogged Claiborne his first three seasons.
He sprained a medial collateral ligament in his left knee in training camp as a rookie. He jammed the same knee during last year’s training camp. He missed six games last season while dealing with shoulder, knee, hamstring and finger injuries and was passed on the depth chart by Orlando Scandrick.
Claiborne needs better health and better luck.
“I’m just going as planned,” Claiborne said. “This is how it’s planned to go for me. I’m just living it, doing it and doing it the best I can do it, worry about where I’m at now, and what I can handle right now.”
The Cowboys need Claiborne more than they ever have. With Scandrick set to serve a four-game suspension to start the season, Claiborne will start opposite Carr, assuming he’s healthy.
Claiborne knows as well as anyone that it’s time — time for him to stay on the field and time for him to produce. That’s the Cowboys’ hope.
“I expect for him to most importantly stay healthy, take care of his body,” Carr said. “But at the same time, this is year three, and he’s seen a lot in his first two years. In a big spotlight like this you get thrown into the fire early, but he’s battled and he’s still standing on his two feet, and this year, it’s time for him to turn a corner.”