Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones expresses optimism about Morris Claiborne’s return

Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) has missed the past nine games with a groin injury.
Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) has missed the past nine games with a groin injury. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Morris Claiborne should return for the playoffs – at least on a limited basis -- from a groin injury that has kept him out the past nine games. Owner Jerry Jones expressed optimism about Claiborne’s availability along with defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.

Defensive tackle Cedric Thornton has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has missed three games with a back injury.

The Cowboys could play their first playoff game as healthy as they have been this season, having left Thornton, Lawrence, McClain, Claiborne, defensive end Tyrone Crawford, linebacker Justin Durant (elbow) and left tackle Tyron Smith (knee) home for Sunday’s game at Philadelphia. Linebacker Sean Lee and running back Ezekiel didn’t play, and several other players, including quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver Dez Bryant played less than half the snaps.

“I really like our health,” Jones said on his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan. “Claiborne is going to be ready. Now, we’ve got to get him ready, but he’s going to be ready. Boy, that’s impactful to our secondary. Lawrence has got a great chance. Of course, an unsung guy in there – Terrell McClain – he is so critical to us. Really you could say we’ve got our starting guys that will be back out there in our front four. I think I’m really proud that we’re in the health that we’re in. I would have been really had we gotten out there and not played [the Eagles game] the way we played it and some how had been with a more limited Sean Lee, I wouldn’t feel this good today.”

Jones said the Cowboys were ready to start the 21-day window on guard La’el Collins, who missed the last 13 games after undergoing surgery on his right big toe. The Cowboys expect to move Collins off injured reserve, using the designated-to-return tag on him.

“I think he’s going to physically be able to go,” Jones said. “We’ve got a 21-day clock we can put him on, and we’ll probably start that clock with him, which means he’ll just be zeroed in on doing football work, specifically football work. For all practical purposes, he is through with his rehab.”