Cowboys need Morris Claiborne healthy

The news out of Dallas Cowboys camp on Morris Claiborne's knee Saturday was relatively good. Ed Werder reports that the injury is a "minor" sprain of the MCL and that Claiborne is likely to miss only a few practices. Obviously, it could be worse. The M could be an A, for instance, and the sprain could be a tear. The Cowboys are breathing easier as a result of the diagnosis, I'm sure. But this is still a knee injury and mildly alarming development that should prompt the Cowboys to be extremely careful with their first-round pick going forward.

The Cowboys have a ton invested in Claiborne. They spent big money in free agency on cornerback Brandon Carr and then used their first-round pick and their second-round pick to draft Claiborne because they believed (correctly) that cornerback was that big a weakness for them in 2011. As a result, however, of spending all of those resources on cornerbacks, they ignored needs at safety and on the offensive and defensive lines and upset incumbent cornerback Mike Jenkins, who responded by asking to be traded and sitting out much of the offseason program.

None of that will matter too much in the long run as long as Claiborne is as good as they believe he will be. But this is a young man who already missed the offseason practices while recovering from wrist surgery and now will be missing training camp and possibly a preseason game with a knee injury. Even if these medical issues are just bumps in the road and not a sign of a fragile player, he's still missing important time in his rookie development. And given how much they're counting on him to be excellent from day one, that's not good news.

Reports from camp last week indicated that receiver Dez Bryant was having his way with the rookie. That's to be expected, but it serves as a reminder of how much rookies in this league have to learn, and how vital these August practices are in learning them. As long as Claiborne's only out a few days, the Cowboys should have little to worry about. But they'd do well to make sure and manage him so that it doesn't become more serious than that.