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May 07, 2012

Secondary coach wants Claiborne to be 'strong-minded,' because QBs will pick on him or any rookie corner

Secondary coach Jerome Henderson said Morris Claiborne is going to get picked on when he gets on the field in September, no matter that he was the top defender in the draft.

“I don’t care if you’re the first guy picked at corner or if you’re the last guy,” Henderson said. “You’re still a rookie, and NFL quarterbacks are going to look over there and say, ‘Let’s try this rookie and see if he’s ready to play today.’ They’re going to come after him, and they’re going to consistently come after him. He’s got to be strong-minded, and he’s got to deal with that on a week-in and week-out basis. So we have a lot of work to do to get him ready for that.”

Henderson, speaking Saturday at the rookie minicamp, is in his first year as the Cowboys’ secondary coach. His first assignment is to prepare the team’s prized possession from the April draft. The Cowboys gave up their second-round pick to move up eight spots, from No. 14 to No. 6, to draft the LSU cornerback.

“I know I’m going to work my butt off to get him ready to play,” Henderson said. “I’m going to work my butt off to help him think the game and to process it all and to understand the commitment he has to make to be a top corner in this league.”

Two years ago in Cleveland, Henderson was in charge of getting the Browns’ first-round pick, cornerback Joe Haden, ready to play. Haden, taken at No. 7, had six interceptions as a rookie.

Henderson was asked if that experience will help him as he works with Claiborne.

“With rookies, you just never know,” he said. “You’ve seen some that they come in and it’s like they’ve been here forever. You’ve seen guys come in you wouldn’t were can’t miss and they come in and they miss. ... There’s always an X-factor with rookies. How will they adjust? How will they handle the pressure and the stress and money and friends and obligations and freedom? You never know.”

But Claiborne’s skill and character were clear to the Cowboys. Their commitment to him was obvious on draft day.

“Obviously we think he’s a very talented young man or we wouldn’t have traded up to get him,” Henderson said. “You can’t hide that fact. The guy really does have some physical tools.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez

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