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Morris Claiborne: 'I know I deserve to start'

IRVING, Texas -- Maybe Morris Claiborne is delusional. Maybe he's just in denial. Perhaps he's simply too proud or embarrassed to admit the obvious. Or entitlement could be the issue.

Those are the only reasonable explanations for the demoted Dallas Cowboys cornerback refusing to acknowledge the reality that Orlando Scandrick is a significantly better player than him.

"I'm not going to sit here and say, 'No, I don't deserve to start,' because I know I deserve to start," Claiborne said. "But that's not what the coaches see."

What makes Claiborne believe that he merits a starting job?

"Because I've worked, I've worked for it," Claiborne said. "Night and day, I've worked."

Well, working hard is one of the minimum requirements for NFL players, kind of like attending practices and team meetings. Claiborne has reaped the rewards for excelling at that minimum requirement, earning one of the Cowboys' offseason awards and the accompanying, plum parking spot at the team's Valley Ranch facility.

Playing time, however, should always be decided by performance. That was the case here, making it an easy call for the Cowboys' coaches to decide that the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft isn't a starter.

There is no argument that makes a lick of football sense for Claiborne keeping the starting job.

The only reason this decision is big news is because Claiborne reacted so poorly, acting like a spoiled kid who didn't get his way. He turned it into a national circus by walking out on the team Tuesday, explaining a day later that he didn't appreciate how the decision was relayed to him.

Maybe the coaches could have communicated better. Perhaps they should have made it clear to Claiborne that he'd just keep the spot warm while Scandrick served his suspension unless he played two of the best games of his terribly disappointing career.

Of course, the coaches were probably worried about pumping up a fragile ego that was crushed last season, when Claiborne first lost the starting job. Scandrick seized it and was clearly the Cowboys' best cornerback, faint as that praise might be.

You could make the case that Scandrick lost the right to start when he popped a Molly on a Mexican beach in April, leading to his suspension. But Scandrick gives the Cowboys a much better chance to win than Claiborne, a fact that probably seems fairly important to a head coach in the final season of his contract.

It offends Claiborne that the coaches would rather start Scandrick? That's funny. If Scandrick wasn't on his best behavior, he might take a few jabs at his moping backup. But Scandrick bit his tongue and just pointed to performance to justify the depth chart.

"I feel like I had a good year last year and I feel like it carried over into training camp," Scandrick said. "I feel like I'm still ascending as a player, and yes, I do feel like I earned a right to play full time."

All Claiborne has earned is a lot of criticism and the parking spot that he ran to while pouting Tuesday.