- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. – For a one-on-one session, Morris Claiborne lived up to the hype of that 2012 draft night.
After the Dallas Cowboys packaged their first two picks to move up to select Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick, owner/general manager Jerry Jones bragged to anybody who would listen that Deion Sanders was the last cornerback the team gave a higher draft grade. Well, Claiborne did a pretty good Prime Time impersonation in his first few full-contact reps of his third training camp.
Claiborne, a massive disappointment during his first two injury-plagued seasons, showed a physical style and swagger that hadn’t been seen from him since he won the Jim Thorpe Award as a junior at LSU.
“I can play,” Claiborne said after the practice. “I’m that same guy that they traded up to go get.”
Claiborne made much more colorful statements to Terrance Williams while dominating four consecutive one-on-one reps against the Cowboys’ No. 2 receiver. At one point, Claiborne barked that they had better bring Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant over to compete against him. Several of his comments aren't suitable to be printed on a Disney-owned website.
Claiborne got in Williams’ face at the line of scrimmage and stayed in the receiver’s face well after forcing each incomplete pass. Williams returned the verbal fire at his friend – all was well between the two after the practice ended – but Claiborne clearly got the best of the matchup. He at least flashed the potential of being a premier press cornerback, something that frankly hadn’t happened in the previous two seasons.
Claiborne couldn’t sustain that energy or excellence for the entire practice. He gave up a couple of big plays in 7-on-7 drills and needed attention from associate athletic trainer Britt Brown after cramping up later in the practice.
“That’s what this is about for him is keeping his confidence at a high level,” Jones said. “We obviously know his talent, his speed and that was good to see him over there competing. And his coaches were pointing that out to him. He’s got to really fight through it at the end of practice.”
It wasn’t a perfect afternoon, but this practice was a heck of a first step in Claiborne’s fight to prove he isn’t an epic draft bust.
“I’m just playing. I’m just competing,” Claiborne said. “I’m not out there thinking about anything, thinking about what went on yesterday or last year. I’m not thinking about none of that. My focus is on one place and one place only. I’m thinking about going forward, building off this day.”