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June 14, 2012

Cowboys say Morris Claiborne showing his smarts in the classroom, walk-throughs and tape

First-round pick Morris Claiborne hasn’t been able to practice yet, but his football smarts are showing in the classroom and walk-throughs, secondary coach Jerome Henderson says.

Not to mention the LSU film.

“The tape tells me he’s smart and plays with awareness,” Henderson said after a minicamp practice Wednesday at Valley Ranch. “When I look at tape of the young man, everything about it says, ‘Wow, this guy is really smart. A smart football player. Understands the concepts. Understands his fit within those concepts.’ ”

Which is a contrast to the red flag raised by Claiborne’s reportedly low Wonderlic score at the NFL Combine. The rookie cornerback acknowledged the low score on the aptitude test, but said he didn’t take it seriously because it wasn’t about football.

But the Cowboys say they have seen no evidence of a player who is failing to learn at Valley Ranch.

“He’s clearly a guy who has a good understanding of football,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We use the expression ‘football IQ.’ Everything we heard from the people at LSU who were around him for three years said he was very natural that way. We’ve given him a lot of stuff. It’s particularly difficult for him because he is hearing the stuff, but he not getting to do it. But he’s handling it well. We’ll see when he gets out there practicing, when the bullets are really flying, how well he handles it. But he hangs in there mentally, and I think that has a lot to do with just his understanding of the game. That’s football IQ.”

Garrett said he has noticed how Claiborne studies and how he shadows his position during walk-throughs. It’s all he can do on the field right now until he is fully recovered from wrist ligament surgery.

That should be in time for the start of training camp. When that happens, Henderson hopes Claiborne will be well-versed in the defense.

“He’s got to work harder in the classroom to put himself in those situations where he has to think fast and put pressure on himself,” Henderson said. “I’ve got to do that with him in the meetings, put pressure on him to think fast, create pressure. Because to me, that’s the difference between great players and average players, how they handle stress and pressure. When it’s easy and slowed down, everybody can go out there and function. But when it speeds up and I’m a little tense, a lot of things are going on, how does he handle the situation?

“And again, from what I’ve seen of the young man, I think he’ll be good in those situations. But I try to create them for him as much as possible.”

-- Carlos Mendez

Twitter @calexmendez


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