Welcome to the NFL rookie!
With Mike Jenkins still unable to practice, Morris Claiborne is getting the first-team reps at right cornerback. Some thought that Orlando Scandrick would see the action on the first-team defense, but Rob Ryan has inserted the rookie cornerback from LSU into the starting spot opposite of Brandon Carr. Claiborne expected to be thrown into the fire early on.
"I felt good," Claiborne said. "I was kind of expecting that. I know they didn't (move up in the draft) to get me for nothing, just to have me sitting over there. I knew they were going to throw me out there and I have to do my part and handle my business."
When Rob Ryan was back in Cleveland, the Browns drafted another talented cornerback from the SEC, that cornerback was Joe Haden. Haden didn't begin the season as one of the starting cornerbacks for the Browns, but by the middle of the season he was inserted into the starting lineup. Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com has a quote from Ryan talking about Claiborne and Haden.
"We're coaching him and coaching him hard," Ryan said of Claiborne. "He's a smart kid. He works hard. Is he going to have some growing pains? I'm sure he will. But we all do. Just got to get out and do it. Joe Haden (in Cleveland), we didn't start him the first four games and we didn't have any success and we finally put the kid in and he grew quick and he took off. He had six interceptions and was probably our best defensive player by the end of the year."
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Ryan was clearly excited in the war room when the Cowboys traded up eight spots to get Claiborne. The type of talent Ryan is inheriting could have a big affect on his defense, and the Cowboys are trying to get Claiborne back up to speed after being sidelined the past few months recovering from wrist surgery.
You can also check out a great video of Ryan talking more about Haden and Claiborne over at the mothership.
What I want to stress to everyone is that there are going to be growing pains for Claiborne. He has missed a lot of time and it's going to take him some time before he gets back into football shape. There were a couple of scares today during practice with Dez Bryant coming off the field, who returned later, and Claiborne also came up gimpy after defending a pass.
According to Claiborne, his leg was just a little sore, and he should return to practice tomorrow.
"It was just soreness," Claiborne said. "My leg gave out on me a little bit ... It’s been a while since I actually did drills and ran with receivers, except for the rookie minicamp. I’m getting back into football shape. We’ll get it together. Overall, it was a pretty good day."
This is one aspect that I hate about training camp and football in general. The injuries are just part of the game, but man they do make you nervous when you read that one of your players go down with an injury.
The rust may have showed today, but Claiborne isn't looking for excuses.
"You can’t blame it on rust," Claiborne said, responding to a suggestion that he was chipping off rust. "When you’re out there, you’ve just got to go compete. Whether your legs are tired or not, you’ve got to fight through it and you’ve got to go compete."
This is a young man who has a great passion for the game of football. He wants to learn everything he can, but he is also willing to ask the veterans for help. Bryan Broaddus reported on his Twitter account that Claiborne was asking Miles Austin some questions. It's probably a good idea for the young cornerback to pick the brain of a player who has a lot of success in the NFL.
Throughout the rest of these practices, we are going to see tweets or reports about Claiborne getting beat. Every cornerback gets beat and at the cornerback position you have to have a short memory. So don't get too upset if Claiborne isn't Darrelle Revis out there the first couple of weeks, it's going to take some time for him to adjust to the NFL. If he stays healthy (please Morris), then I believe that Claiborne will be just fine.