IRVING, Texas – Morris Claiborne said his decision to leave the Cowboys' facility and skip the team's Tuesday walkthrough wasn't about quitting – it was about preventing a bad situation from escalating.
"By no stretch of the imagination was I thinking I was leaving here yesterday and never coming back. That wasn't my intention," Claiborne said. "I was removing myself from that situation at that time."
Claiborne was informed Tuesday that he'd been demoted from the starting lineup in favor of Orlando Scandrick after a rough outing against St. Louis. But in talking to reporters following Wednesday's practice, he said it wasn't the news that caused him to leave.
"The reason why I left was -- the reason was how something was brought to me and how something was presented to me," he said. "I felt myself at a place where I had to just leave the facility at that moment … I felt like if I stayed, who knows what would have happened. I felt like the best thing for me to do was to leave."
How the situation was presented to him is something Claiborne chose not to share, but he did add that he was comfortable with whatever fines or disciplinary action the Cowboys chose for him when he made the decision to leave.
The situation appears to be resolved, as Claiborne returned to Valley Ranch and spoke with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Tuesday night, and he addressed the team Wednesday morning. He also practiced fully on Wednesday.
"Sometimes you have to step away from the situation and get yourself together and get your mind back right," said Brandon Carr. "Today he came back with a chip on his shoulder, ready to go back to work."
The gameplan going forward looks to be the same as last year's, with Claiborne going onto the field in nickel situations while Scandrick, who also started for most of 2013, shifts inside to play the slot.
"I'm going to play a hell of a lot of plays for this team. I'm going to play a big, big role for this team – in this game to come and in games down the road," Claiborne said. "I'm a grown man, and I'm here to stand up and fill the shoes that I need to fill and do whatever I need to do for this team."
Ironically enough, if there's anyone that can relate to Claiborne, it's probably Scandrick. Now in his seventh-year, Scandrick hadn't started more than seven games in a season until last year when he played in all 16 games and started 15.
"I'm standing here in front of this camera as somebody who has been benched before – after a game, in my second year in the league. I know how it feels," he said.
Scandrick was in constant competition with his fellow 2008 draft pick – first-rounder Mike Jenkins – throughout the early potion of his career. Jenkins ultimately won out, starting 15 games in 2009 and earning a Pro Bowl selection, and pushing Scandrick to the slot in the process.
"Me and Mike Jenkins were the best of friends, as anybody knows that was around here. It never was a personal, between-me-and-him thing," Scandrick said. "I was harder on myself, and that happening to me and seeing Mike go to the Pro Bowl that year, I was very happy for him and it motivated me to become the player I am today."
Conventional wisdom had Scandrick as the returning starter opposite Carr after his success in 2013. That logic changed when it was revealed he'd be missing the first four games of the season after failing a league drug test.
With a change in the drug policy reinstating him two games early, it didn't take long for Scandrick to re-assert himself.
"I felt like I had a really good year last year, and I felt like it carried over into training camp," he said. "I feel like I'm still ascending as a player, and yes, I do feel like I've earned the right to play full time."
Claiborne said Scandrick's suspension, and the lack of depth behind him, motivated him throughout the preseason. He added that he's worked "night and day" to be worthy of a starting spot. [embedded_ad]
"Everybody feels like they deserve to start. I'm not going to sit here and say 'No, I don't deserve to start.' I know I deserve to start, but that's not what the coaches feel," Claiborne said. "Like I said, at the end of the day those guys have the last decision on what's going to be done and it is what it is."
Going forward, Claiborne said his teammates understood his position, and he added that he felt sorry for walking out on them. With a dynamic Saints offense coming to town on Sunday, it's a situation the Cowboys have to hope stays resolved.
"He was the starter, and, as anybody would if they were demoted or not playing as much as they feel they were, they're going to feel a little down," Scandrick said. "I support Morris and we support him as a team, and I look forward to playing with him this Sunday."