Claiborne Says He Hasn't Been This Healthy Since College; Eager to Play

OXNARD, Calif. – Morris Claiborne has played two preseason games in his NFL career, with both occurring in his rookie year of 2012.

For two full years, Claiborne has yet to make his way to the field in preseason, and didn't play again last Thursday in the Cowboys' opener with the Chargers.

Who knows if he'll play any of the preseason games, but Claiborne at least was the top cornerback in practice Monday against the Rams. With Orlando Scandrick (knee), Brandon Carr (hand) and Byron Jones (shoulder) all sitting out Claiborne took the first-team reps. Maybe that's an indication he could be on the field this Sunday in San Fran

While Claiborne wants to say he expects to be out there in the next two games, he's at least hoping so. And to his credit, why wouldn't he? He admitted this week his body hasn't felt this good since he got to the NFL.

"Definitely, since I've come out of college," said Claiborne, who underwent surgeries on both knees in the last 10 months. "This is the best I've moved around covering guys."

After a torn patella injury required surgery on his left knee, Claiborne waited a month before getting his right scoped, something he had planned to do after the season.

"Having knee problems … my knee problem didn't just spark up. There's always been issues with tendonitis and that's why I was missing so much time out in camp."

And Claiborne was hesitant to sound like he's making excuses, but rather tried to explain how tendonitis and constant soreness affects his game, especially at his position.

"My knees were swelling up. That's the difference with coming out of breaks and taking extra steps," Claiborne said. "When you have to round your breaks to be careful, it's just one of those things. It was meant for me. I'm here now."

Claiborne has been in and out of practice so far here in training camp. The Cowboys have limited his reps, and have tried to prevent from practices in consecutive days.

But when he's on the field, not only is Claiborne satisfied, but he thinks the coaching staff is as well.

"I feel good. I have no bad complaints from the coaching staff," Claiborne said. "When they want me to go play, I'm going to go. If they hold me out, they hold me out. But I'll be ready no matter what. Whether I take a preseason snap or not, I'll be ready for that home opener."

And that's usually the ultimate goal for all players – be ready when the Giants come to town on Sept. 13.

But Claiborne knows he needs as much as reps as he can. He hasn't played since the Sept. 28 game with the Saints, when he suffered a torn patella tendon in his left knee while simply running down the field with a receiver.

That season-ending injury occurred one week after he struggled for most of the day in St. Louis, only to save the game with a leaping interception to preserve a 34-31 win, which tied a Cowboys' record for the biggest comeback (21 points) in franchise history. 

Actually, Claiborne made headlines in between those games when he abruptly left the Valley Ranch facility after finding out he had lost his starting positon to Orlando Scandrick.

Things have changed somewhat for Claiborne, who said "he's just trying to make the team" when he was asked about his role early in camp this year.

Still, make no mistake, Claiborne wants that role again.

"My goal is to be a starter. I was once a starter in this league," Claiborne said. "I know what I can do. I know my ability. I just have to go get it done."

When it came to his knee, his performance and his rehab, Claiborne welcomes all questions. But when the topic of his contract comes up, he's quick to shake his head.

"I'm not even worried about it, said Claiborne, who is now in the last year of his deal after the Cowboys opted not to pick up the fifth-year option of his initial rookie deal. "Everything will speak for itself. Once I get out there and put it on the field, it'll take care of itself."

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