Sidelined Morris Claiborne: 'Sky is the limit'

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys packaged their first two picks in the 2012 draft to get the best cornerback prospect in a couple of decades, not a backup.

After two disappointing seasons, Morris Claiborne is confident he will still prove the Cowboys right.

“The sky is the limit,” Claiborne said. “I’ve got big dreams. Where my mind is for this season, it’s really unbelievable. I’d rather not talk about it. I’d rather just show.”

Too bad Claiborne can’t show much right now. The Cowboys kept him out of team drills on the opening day of organized team activities, proceeding with caution as he recovers from offseason surgeries on his left shoulder and pinkie finger.

While his teammates competed, Claiborne did conditioning work to the side with other players rehabbing from injuries. That is a far too familiar view of practice for the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Claiborne missed all of the offseason workouts before his rookie season because he was recovering from surgery on his left wrist. He has missed significant time in both of his training camps because of minor knee injuries, including sitting out the entire 2013 preseason. He has missed games because of a concussion and strained hamstring, and he played hurt all season after dislocating his shoulder in last year’s opener.

Now, Claiborne is missing more valuable work, hoping the Cowboys’ medical staff will “let me loose” soon, but uncertain when he will get in on the action. It’s another detour for the sputtering development of a prized draft pick.

“You want players to play. There’s no question about that,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Mo’s had to deal with whatever it’s been over the course of the first couple of years of his career, but he’s also played a lot football for us, too. He’s done a great job this offseason coming back from his injury and getting stronger. He looks physically stronger to us. He’s moving around really well. We just want to do the right thing for him as we get going in these OTAs.”

Claiborne wants to do right by the Cowboys, too. He wants to make it clear that it wasn’t a massive mistake to pay such a premium price to move up eight spots for him.

“I want to be the greatest to do it,” Claiborne said. “I want to make history along with my team.”

Never mind his place in history among the all-time greats like Deion Sanders, who owner/general manager Jerry Jones crowed on 2012 draft weekend was the last cornerback prospect the Cowboys graded higher than Claiborne. At this point, Claiborne has his work cut out for him just to earn a starting spot.

Injuries were a factor, but Orlando Scandrick took Claiborne’s starting job last season based on performance. There have been precious few glimpses of potential greatness from Claiborne, who has only two interceptions and has been picked on often over the past two seasons.

The Cowboys were counting on Claiborne to make a major leap last season. Instead, he was a significant part of the problem on a defense that ranked dead last in the league.

“We feel like we have something to prove as an entire defense, and we feel like we have something to prove as individuals,” Claiborne said. “I think that plays a big part in it. All of us are hungry and all of us want the same thing. All of us want to be great.”

Claiborne has as much to prove as anybody. He can get started once he’s cleared to practice.