OXNARD, Calif. -- Among the mild surprises from the Dallas Cowboys' first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers was the fact that cornerback Morris Claiborne was among the veterans who did not play.
But it had nothing to do with his knee issues. Claiborne knew before the game he wasn’t going to play.
“The expression that the training staff uses is it’s a long race, it’s not a 100-yard dash for me at this point,” Claiborne said. “I’m just taking my time, getting better, getting healthier. I’m feeling good, running around, but you know these preseason games aren’t really going to mean anything to me. Once they release me to go play, I’ll go play. But once they hold me back, I’m not fighting anything. I’m letting this boat go. I’ll be ready.”
The boat will be ready to go Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Claiborne added.
His return from a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee has gone as smoothly as possible. He has suffered no setbacks in his return and has not missed a day of practice. After the Chargers game, coach Jason Garrett said Claiborne “just wasn’t ready to play.”
Claiborne has not seen a lot of work in preseason games in his career because of injuries. But he says he hasn't felt this good since the Cowboys traded up to take him with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
“My knee problems just didn’t spark up,” Claiborne said. “It’s always been issues with tendinitis, and that’s why I’ve missed so much time out of camp because of my knees swelling up. That’s the difference in coming out of a break, having to take an extra step to making a play to a receiver catching the ball, when you have to round your breaks to be careful.”
In addition to the patellar surgery on his left knee, Claiborne had a scope on his right knee to help with the chronic tendinitis. Because of the two surgeries, he dropped to 150 pounds but has since been able to build up his weight and strength.
“It was bone rubbing against bone at one point,” Claiborne said.
Claiborne hopes his knee issues are a thing of the past and he can play like he did at LSU, and not like he did in his first three seasons with the Cowboys, when he recorded just three interceptions.
While he wants to play in a preseason game, his true focus is the regular-season opener on Sept. 13 against the New York Giants.
“I don’t have no bad complaints about how I’m playing from the coaching staff. Everybody seems to be pleased with where I’m at,” Claiborne said. “I’m pleased with where I’m at, and whether I take a preseason snap or not, I’ll be ready to play for that home opener.”