Claiborne Ready To Change Conversation About Star-Crossed Career

IRVING, Texas – If this story sounds familiar, that's because it is – and Morris Claiborne is well aware of that fact.

Claiborne, the Cowboys' former No. 6 overall pick, is in the middle of his fifth offseason at Valley Ranch after re-signing with the team back in March.

Often the victim of injuries and other setbacks, Claiborne is as healthy as he's ever been and ready to showcase the talent that has been discussed so frequently and showcased so rarely.

It's been a storyline several years running, and you'd better believe he's tired of it.

"I'm ready to change it," Claiborne said on Wednesday. "When y'all come talk to me, I want y'all to say 'Oh, that was a nice pick' or 'Oh, you made a great play.' 'How's it feeling going to the Pro Bowl?' or 'How's it feel going to the Super Bowl?' That's the questions I want. I'm ready to take on that task, and I know the coaches expect a lot from me."

Expectations are nothing new for Claiborne. He's been dealing with them since the Cowboys traded up from No. 14 overall to No. 6 to select him in the 2012 NFL Draft. He also hasn't lived up to them, given that he's played in just 40 of 66 games and managed just three interceptions in his career.

None of this is news to Claiborne, and it's safe to say he's comfortable addressing that issue. Asked about it Wednesday, he said he's not concerned about outside opinions – just with proving his own ability to himself.

"I just need to prove to myself that I know that I can go out and make plays," he said. "It hasn't happened for me, but I feel like it's going to happen when it happens. But right now I'm pushing the issue."

If there's an outside opinion that might concern Claiborne, it's probably that of his defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli. Reporters sought Claiborne out largely based on a comment from Marinelli, who has been impressed with his corner's workload during OTAs.

"The more he can practice, the better he gets. I think it's his time," Marinelli said.

There's got to be reason for optimism that Marinelli is right. After re-upping on a one-year deal, Claiborne is arguably at his healthiest since he joined the roster. This time last year, he was still in the midst of his rehab after undergoing surgery on his patellar tendon – a process that saw him drop to 150 pounds. And in the years before that, he battled a variety of ailments that limited his availability.

"Mo's done a good job throughout his career working through injuries and getting himself ready to play when he hasn't had enough preparation, but he's worked hard to come back," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He looks good physically and he's worked hard at his rehab to come back from different injuries and he has had been able to practice really throughout this OTA season and I do believe he's getting better and better."

Given a clean bill of health to work with, Claiborne is trying to make the most of it. He has looked good in the Cowboys' nine OTA practices, and he doesn't look like he'll be limited when the annual grind of training camp comes around. Claiborne is playing at about 190 pounds and says he feels stronger than he has in the past.

"Just being able to go out and stay sticky on the receivers, because I've had time to actually work on it," he said. "I haven't had any nagging injury, and I've had time to work on the line of scrimmage and work on getting stronger."

It's been a long time coming, but Claiborne is hopeful that in 2016 he can change the conversation. 

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