IRVING, Texas –
The second-year corner dislocated his shoulder against the Giants in the opener, practiced on a limited basis the week after and came in on nickel situations against the Chiefs, trying to work through playing with a harness over the shoulder.
“It’s tough,” Claiborne said. “I was just going through practice (Wednesday), just trying to learn from it, not thinking about it. If it’s hurting, I try to tell myself, ‘You’re not hurting,’ and a couple times I believed myself. A couple times I didn’t, but I’m just trying to keep it on that side where I believe it and I’ll deal with the consequences later on.”
Claiborne’s not positive when the pain will completely subside or when it will heal perfectly. He thinks it’ll get better, and his mindset is that it’s fine right now. The shoulder didn’t come out against the Chiefs, even when attempting to tackle, although he was slow to get up once. He got a shot in the shoulder before that game.
He said he felt the injury throughout most of the day and attempted to avoid unnecessary contact, but when a ball-carrier comes his way, he has to be ready to make the play. Claiborne said he has to work on not overanalyzing those situations in the game.
“It’s one of those things where it feels good, you feel like you can do everything because it’s feeling better, but then once you go bump it, it reminds you it’s still here, it’s not going anywhere,” Claiborne said. “That kind of pulled me back a little bit, but then it’s like, to hell with it, just go.”
The one time he didn’t overanalyze, he probably should have. That came on a play that moved the chains for the Chiefs just before the two-minute warning, after the Cowboys had burned all three timeouts and trailed by a point, effectively ending a chance at a Dallas comeback.
Claiborne was flagged for pass interference on a short slant to the left side of the field on a third-and-10 play. He didn’t think his mindset was wrong, though, and he believes he has to be aggressive in that scenario. Claiborne didn’t want to let the receiver run inside and catch it near the first-down marker. The corner has few regrets about that decision, apart from the fact that he got flagged.
“Any time the defense is man-to-man, that’s your man and you’ve got to go do what you’ve got to do,” Claiborne said. “There’s no backing off in that situation.”
Obviously, that pass interference call was a tough one to swallow. But thus is life as a cornerback in the NFL, and working through tough experiences is something Claiborne and all defensive backs have to be able to do in the league.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher noticed short-term memory wasn’t a problem for Claiborne when the corner was coming out of college and meeting with teams.
“Obviously, we had him in for visits and interviewed him and all that kind of stuff,” Fisher said. “He has the appropriate mentality to play the position. By that, I mean he’s got a very short-term memory. He’s not going to have any problems with that. He understands the nature of secondary play.”
Fisher said that can be tough for a corner to deal with. His team is dealing with it as well after sitting 27th in the league in passing defense through two weeks.
“A guy plays 65 plays and he has one negative play and he grades out 99 percent, that negative play in the secondary could be very revealing,” Fisher said. “That’s the nature of secondary play, but he’s got a short memory. Obviously he’s well-coached there and is going to be a very good player in this league.”
Injuries have stalled some of Claiborne’s progress in his short tenure so far in the NFL. He had a wrist injury early on and a couple knee injuries since joining the league prior to his shoulder injury to start this season.
But he feels well-prepared for playing the position and the rigors of working as a cornerback in the NFL. He said his shoulder feels good this week, although he knows that’s a circumstance where it’ll probably feel fine until he has to start bumping receivers. It’s a mental barrier he’s got to work through, the same way he’s been able to work through others throughout his career.
He said it’s gotten much easier for him to come back from getting beat or not making a play in the NFL than it was when he was in college at LSU.
“When I first got there, I’d get beat on a 5-yard hitch or something, and I’m mad, I’m ready to explode,” he said. “On through the years, I’ve had to learn that guys are going to catch balls. Everything’s not going to be perfect. You’ve got to forget about it. Being in this league here, you’ve got to forget about it. You’ve got to forget about everything… or that’s going to hold you down.”
Claiborne’s in a bit of an odd situation right now with the shoulder injury, coming in on nickel packages. It was strange for him Sunday. He said he got stuck on the field sometimes when they called for him to come out of the game. He didn’t hear them because he’s so used to starting every play.
“I’m just standing there waiting on the next play and somebody’s got to come grab me to get me out,” he said. “Sometimes I get frustrated, but now I’m learning to deal with it. They come get me, no problem.”
It can be tough for him to get in a rhythm as a nickel cornerback, but he said that’s just something he’s got to work through.
He said he played a little more in the base package in practice this week, but he doesn’t want to rush the injury. The big thing for him now is getting healthy, because he doesn’t want to put any more bad plays on film.
Head coach Jason Garrett has no doubt his former first-round pick will get over last week’s game and bounce back.
“I think we saw that from Mo last year,” Garrett said. “We played a game against Philadelphia where they got after him pretty good, and one of the things we were most impressed by as coaches and I’m sure as teammates as well was how he competed in that ballgame after things really didn’t go his way. He just kept battling, kept battling and certainly bounced back after that ballgame and just kept fighting.”