Before hanging out with his former teammates on Wednesday afternoon, ex-Cowboys safety and ESPN's Darren Woodson was asked about current Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne and his durability.
Woodson said he believes Claiborne is a talented player but his health issues raises concerns.
In his rookie season, Claiborne missed offseason workouts because he was recovering from wrist surgery. Then in the early stages of training camp he hurt his knee forcing him to miss some preseason games. He missed only one game during the 2012 season and was on the injury report just four times.
Claiborne didn't have any problems this year until late in training camp when he developed a sore knee. Team officials said Claiborne's knee problem wasn't considered serious, but he will miss the final three preseason games because of it.
Claiborne did return to practice this week, still Woodson is concerned about the long-term health.
"Durability is one of the concerns for Claiborne," Woodson said. "You know athletically what this kid can do. He's one of those guys that’s so gifted at the cornerback position. Where you can determine if he’s a great cornerback or an average cornerback (is) when the ball is in the air and if there's fear in his eyes, then that’s an average cornerback. Claiborne is not afraid when the ball is in the air. He will make a play on that football, he doesn’t care at all if he has to take a risk to go up and get it, I see that in him."
Claiborne is expected to start the 2013 regular season when the Cowboys host the New York Giants on Sept. 8. In the previous defensive scheme, under Rob Ryan's 3-4, Claiborne played more tight man-to-man coverage. Now in the 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme with Monte Kiffin as the defensive coordinator, Claiborne will play more zone coverage with some man-to-man mixed in. The scheme is designed to create turnovers and through four preseason games, the Cowboys have forced nine.
The scheme will also allow Claiborne to take on runners quicker than in the previous scheme.
"I just need to see more of a toughness side of him especially in this Cover 2 scheme when it’s the corners and the linebackers having to come up and make tackles," Woodson said. "We'll see if he’s one of those guys who is willing to make one of those plays."