In his second game as a Dallas Cowboy, cornerback Morris Claiborne made his first big play: a fourth-down pass breakup in the end zone on a throw intended for Rams’ receiver Steve Smith.
“It felt pretty good. I hadn’t got my hands on a ball in a while,” Claiborne said. “To go and do that on fourth down and get us off the field, it was great.”
The play did have a downside. Claiborne’s deflection hung in the air, triggering a collision between Cowboys’ safeties Danny McCray and Gerald Sensabaugh. McCray left with a strained neck and did not return.
But the timely play by Claiborne, who has battled injuries and seen limited practice time since being selected with the sixth overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, gave the rookie a memorable, confidence-building moment to carry forward into the team’s Sept. 5 opener against the New York Giants if members of the first-team defense do not take the field in Wednesday’s pre-season finale against Miami.
That remains a possibility, although Claiborne said he would welcome some extra reps if the coaches choose to let him play.
“I wouldn’t mind (playing),” Claiborne said. “But I know there’s a lot of guys here who probably need that game a lot more than I do. Whatever the coaches say, whatever they judge me with, I’m going with it.”
Either way, Saturday’s play drove home a point to Claiborne.
“I feel like I’m getting comfortable (in the Cowboys’ scheme),” Claiborne said. “I feel like I did pretty good.”
_ Jimmy Burch