IRVING, Texas — Morris Claiborne realizes pressure accompanies being the sixth overall pick like the Shreveport native was in April after Dallas traded up to draft him. But the former LSU star also realizes that being a Cowboy brings some built-in expectations of its own.
However, the 22-year-old corner — one of four Louisiana natives with the Cowboys — has 40 tackles and one interception through 13 games, and colorful Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is his biggest fan.
“He’s had an excellent year. I don’t know when that rookie of the year thing comes up, but he should be up there,” Ryan said. “He’s an excellent player.”
Claiborne’s transition to pro football has been seamless, which isn’t surprising to this confident rookie.
“I’ve had a pretty solid year. I think it could have been better, but I can’t complain,” he said. “I’m on the right track. That’s all I can ask for.”
He missed last week’s 27-24 win over Pittsburgh with a concussion but returned to practice Wednesday with no issue. And after a second straight productive day of practice Thursday, he proclaimed himself ready for Sunday’s visit by the Saints.
“I feel great. Having no symptoms, everything is clear,” Claiborne said. “It (sitting out last week) was very tough. But it was for the best. Even though I wanted to get out there real bad, I just held back and sucked it all up.”
Growing up in Shreveport, he never considered himself a fan of one team but admits he favored the Cowboys, since that’s the team many in his family cheered for. However, other family members cheer for New Orleans, and Claiborne knows those Saints fans will be cheering for him
Sunday. But they’ll ultimately still be hoping their team wins.
“Ain’t no changing their minds,” he said. “They’re Saints fans, and I’m pretty sure they’ll root for me but want the Saints to come out on top.”
Claiborne does have much respect for Drew Brees and the potency of the Saints
“Nothing rattles him,” he said. “You get pressure, and it seems like it’s not even there. He’s always keeping his eyes down, looking downfield, looking for receivers. We’ve just got to do a good job of getting the pressure to him and covering the guys on the back end.”
Even though he has adjusted well to the NFL, one aspect of being a rookie he hasn’t escaped is enduring several rookie rites of passage,
duties that include ensuring his teammates and coaches have an adequate supply of snacks for positional meetings and that his fellow defensive backs are well fed on the team charter.
“They have us bringing sunflower seeds, snacks and stuff to the meetings,” Claiborne said. “You try to get enough so you don’t have to go (buy them) every day. You try to get enough to where it will last a week or two. They love their sunflower seeds.”
And on days the Cowboys travel, he ensures his fellow defensive backs have enough to eat on the plane. But it could be worse. Some fellow rookies who play other positions have to go to several different restaurants to satisfy their teammates’ cravings.
However, that isn’t the case for Caliborne.
“You’ve got to go around and get everybody food,” he said. “They don’t care if you’re late or not, you’ve got to go get their food. “I know on the
D-line, they send their rookie to different places. But the guys in our room, they’re pretty cool. They always send me to one place. I mainly go to Wing Stop.”
One of those fellow defensive backs he is charged with getting food and snacks for is Brandon Carr, a five-year veteran the Cowboys signed to a free-agent deal last summer. He and Carr have developed a close friendship during their short time as teammates and regularly hang out off the field.
“He has gotten better each week. He’s showing me more. He’s battle-tested. He can go out there and compete regardless of what’s going on,” Carr said. “Off the field, just seeing him grow up as a person, it’s been fun to watch. He’s created his own identity in this league. He’s a humble guy. He’s not a prima donna at all. He puts the work in. He doesn’t want it easy and that’s a good sign.”
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