IRVING, Texas– It was just a small handful of reporters that sat talking to the former No. 6 pick in the NFL draft on Thursday – which helps tell the story of Morris Claiborne to this point.
The hard truth is that it's easy to overlook Claiborne in June of 2015, just nine months after he tore his patellar tendon and two months after the Cowboys declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract.
Standing just outside the tunnel to the stadium locker room, none of that seemed to bother the former first-round pick, who miraculously appears as though he'll be ready for training camp in six weeks.
"I'm just ready to go," he said. "It's not so much you want to prove everybody wrong or do this and that, but I hear a lot of stuff. I hear what people say, I hear what people write, and that's not me. I just want to show them."
Those are encouraging words from Claiborne, who has plenty left to show in the final year of his contract. After missing 12 games last season with his torn patellar, he has only appeared in 29 of 50 games with three interceptions in his career.
It's not surprising, then, that the Cowboys opted not to pick up his option, which would have paid him roughly $11 million in 2016. It wasn't even surprising to Claiborne.
"Why would you put so much on a person that, you don't know where he'll be standing? If I was on the other side, I wouldn't do it," he said. "It's just one of those things – it's a business, and I approach it that way. I've got to go put in some work, and I've got to make somebody want me. I don't want nothing to be given to me."
Claiborne has clearly done an impressive amount of work just to be ready for training camp. He didn't mix into full-team practices during OTAs and minicamp, but he expects to be ready to go by July – if he isn't already there.
"I feel good – ready to go. Period, point-blank," he said. "No matter how you cut it, I'm ready to go."
If that wasn't impressive enough in its own right, consider that Claiborne told reporters he dropped all the way down to 150 pounds during the recovery process. He said he's currently at 172, with an eye on a 180-pound playing weight for training camp.
"The training staff is trying to get me to take a little time off, but I don't feel comfortable not working at this point. I want to be ready, whatever it takes," he said. "I feel like if you want something you've never had, you've got to do something you've never done."
That's good news for the Cowboys, who signed Corey White and drafted Byron Jones to help bolster their prospects in the defensive backfield. Whatever the expectations might be, Claiborne said his goals are simple.
"Being able to play, staying on the field," he said. "The focus is simple: go play football, no matter what. No matter what happens – get hurt again, you've got to find a way to get out of that."
That raises a morbid thought for Claiborne to deal with. Last year wasn't his first season cut short by injuries, as he missed six games in 2013 and also sat out one as a rookie.
His response to that thought was just as simple and forthright as his others.
"I always think about that: what if all the things you've done now, you get another setback? But I'll work. If I'm in the same situation again, I'll continue to work," he said. "I'm going to continue to do this and go until I can't any more – no matter what happens. I'm going to do this until I die, really."