INDIANAPOLIS – Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday he doesn't expect to have Morris Claiborne ready for the start of the offseason program this spring – or potentially the beginning of training camp.
"Don't anticipate him being ready in the spring," Garrett said. "We are hopeful about training camp, but he might be one of those guys who doesnt start right away in training camp."
Claiborne tore his patellar tendon during the Cowboys' Week 4 win against New Orleans last September, and he was moved to injured reserve shortly thereafter. In the time since, he has had surgery to repair the tear, but he is still in the midst of rehabbing the injury.
The Cowboys won't report to training camp for roughly five more months, and Garrett was reluctant to speculate that far into the future. But it doesn't sound like the former No. 6 pick will be available for spring workouts, which typically begin around April, or OTAs, which start up after the draft.
"That's a long way off. That's premature," Garrett said about training camp. "But I wouldn't anticipate him being too involved in the spring."
The coaching staff demoted Claiborne from the starting lineup last season after he was picked on in the Week 3 win against St. Louis, so it's not a given they'd be leaning on him in a starting role this year. It still creates a dilemma for the front office, however.
With a $12.7 million cap hit for 2015, Brandon Carr is surrounded by speculation that his contract might be restructured after a disappointing pair of seasons. Sterling Moore, who helped fill in after Claiborne's injury, is set to enter free agency in three weeks. If Claiborne's injury limits him, it leaves the team with a shortage of healthy cornerbacks – Orlando Scandrick, Tyler Patmon and potentially Carr.
That's exactly the type of dilemma Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys have to worry about with their free agent class – not just at corner, but across the defense.
"This is a critical time for us. We have to make good decisions and we don't want to make the wrong ones," Jones said on Tuesday. "You're hitting on all of the tough ones, which is what you do with these guys. Some of them have injuries. So of them haven't played as well. Some have played better."
For a team that already had a need for a cornerback, it certainly seems to give credence to the thought that the Cowboys might need to address the position this spring, whether in the draft, free agency or both.