Claiborne remains out despite earlier promise

When Morris Claiborne jammed his left knee during Dallas Cowboys training camp, the cornerback said he would be back the next day but he still hasn't returned, two weeks later. (AP/Gus Ruelas, File)
August 20, 2013, 2:57 PM

IRVING, Texas — Morris Claiborne tried to hide a dislocated pinkie that had to be popped back into place by a trainer early during Dallas Cowboys training camp.

Then when the second-year cornerback came out of another practice after jamming his left knee, he downplayed the significance of that injury and said he would be back on the field the next day.

That was two weeks ago, and Claiborne still hasn’t returned to practice.

"If he does anything, it will be toward the end of the week," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday. "I don’t anticipate a lot of practice for him this week, or this weekend."

Claiborne has already missed three preseason games, the first when Garrett held starters out of the Hall of Fame game and the last two since he left practice on Aug. 6.

There are two more tuneup games at home before the Sept. 8 season opener. Starters will get their most extensive action of the preseason Saturday against Cincinnati, and most of them won’t play four nights later against Houston.

Claiborne hasn’t been in the locker room at Valley Ranch when it was open to reporters this week.

But before the Cowboys broke camp from California, Claiborne was already anxious to get back. He took no comfort in the fact that there were then still three weeks before the start of the season.

"I believe anything is a setback," Claiborne said last week. "It might not be to no one else, but to me it’s real because I’ve got high expectations of things that I want to accomplish this year. Not only just in games but in practice, as well. Not being able to go out and practice is a setback for me."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he expects Claiborne to be ready for the season.

"The injuries that he’s having are not what you call the kinds of injuries that would be chronic," Jones said. "He’s every bit the player we thought he was. He’s every bit the athlete we thought he was."

Dallas moved up eight spots to No. 6 and gave up its second-round pick in the 2012 draft to get the All-American from LSU. Claiborne then missed the entire off-season his rookie year after left wrist surgery, and sat out time during training camp with a sprained MCL in his left knee. He missed an earlier practice this camp, and at least one off-season workout, because of a migraine.

Claiborne had 64 tackles, eight pass breakups, an interception and a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown while starting 15 games as a rookie. He missed a game against Pittsburgh in December because of a concussion, but returned the following week against New Orleans with a season-high eight tackles and two pass breakups.

"I felt like I held my own as a rookie, and being out there starting as many games as I did," Claiborne said. "I’m not really happy with it but feel like it was OK."

Garrett said Tuesday that he felt Claiborne got better and better last season at a very challenging position for a young player no matter how high they were drafted.

"One of the real important traits for good corners throughout their career, but particularly when they’re young, is mental toughness. You’re going to get beat. They’re going to have success against you," Garrett said. "There were a couple of games where they got after him pretty good, and one of the things that we were most impressed by were how he came back, within that game and certainly in subsequent games.

"You learn a lot playing that position early. We put him out there, gave him a lot of chances, he hung in there."

Notes: DT Sean Lissemore was back in pads after missing about 10 days with a groin injury. He said he felt good and plans to play Saturday. Garrett said he went through individual drills and will progress into team work throughout the week. … Rookie LB Brandon Magee was out after sustaining a concussion during practice Monday. … Garrett said S J.J. Wilcox, who has been away since last week because of his mother’s death, could return to the team Wednesday and practice Thursday.

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