IRVING, Texas – It sounds like prized rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne tops the list of the Cowboys’ alternatives for kickoff return work.
“I just started getting a lot more reps in it now, backing Felix up and just trying to get all the catches I can get,” Claiborne said.
Felix Jones remains the Cowboys’ primary kickoff returner despite ranking in the bottom third of the league and losing a fumble to start Sunday’s loss. It will be interesting to see how much patience coach Jason Garrett exhibits with if there isn’t significant progress – or if there are any other problems with ball security.
Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in the draft, averaged 26.3 yards on 19 kickoff returns for LSU, including a 99-yard touchdown.
While Claiborne was diplomatic about the situation, he clearly would like the opportunity to impact the game with the ball in his hands.
“I wouldn’t mind,” Claiborne said. “I wouldn’t mind doing it at all. We’ve got a guy back there right now that to my understanding is doing a great job in Felix. If they need somebody else, I’m here.”
The one good reason to not want to see Claiborne as a kickoff returner is the injury risk. He’s a valuable part of the defense as an every-down corner, and Claiborne has had trouble staying healthy recently, missing offseason workouts while recovering from wrist surgery and a week of training camp with a sprained knee.
The last time the Cowboys used a rookie first-round pick as a kickoff returner, Dez Bryant suffered a season-ending broken leg.
“Some guys may take away from special teams because they think they’re going to get hurt,” Claiborne said, “but not me.”