IRVING (AP) – Morris Claiborne was wide awake in bed at six o’clock in the morning. The first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t sleep.
Claiborne had been forced to watch and wait during spring workouts, sidelined because of surgery before the draft to repair ligament damage in his left wrist.
With a $16.4 million, four-year contract and his wrist finally healthy, Claiborne was finally on the field Wednesday with his new team during a practice for rookies and selected veterans. Training camp begins in Oxnard, Calif., next week.
“It feels good,” the 22-year-old All-American cornerback from LSU said about practicing at Valley Ranch. “I was ready to get out here.”
Claiborne acknowledged that he needed to practice. He fumbled the ball during a hands drill and stood with his hands on his hips to catch his breath between drills. Dallas traded up eight spots and lost its second-round pick in April to get Claiborne, who went No. 6 overall.
“Anytime (you’re) coming off months laid back like that you’re going to have a little rust in there, but so far so good,” Claiborne said. “I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I know I have some work to do. You can go out and run a thousand laps, and you come back and you’re still not going to be in football shape.”
The 5-foot-11 cornerback spent most of practice working on the right side, which was his primary field position at LSU. Claiborne sported a brace on his left wrist, which he said he will wear for the entire season. He said he felt no pain during practice.
Claiborne led LSU with six interceptions last season and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. He had 11 picks in 26 games the last two seasons. He was also LSU’s top kickoff returner, averaging 25 yards per return including a 99-yard touchdown at West Virginia.
Claiborne is expected to start opposite Brandon Carr after team scouts tabbed him as the best cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders, the Hall of Famer who was a key part of the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl championship 16 years ago.
Coach Jason Garrett praised Claiborne’s involvement with the team while being unable to practice. He said it was too early to tell how far Claiborne will need to come before the season starts.
“He was very engaged during the spring,” Garrett said. “It’s hard to estimate how behind he is. He’s a rookie trying to play in the NFL and this is his first practice. He’ll get a lot of work in a short period of time. He’s a smart guy. He understands football. You can see that right away.”
Garrett also said he and the Cowboys organization would stand behind Dez Bryant and his family. Bryant, who was arrested last week for allegedly attacking his mother during an argument, will travel with the team to training camp on Saturday.
Notes: The Cowboys placed five players on the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday: Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (hip), who signed a four-year, $11 million deal as a free agent in the spring, 2012 fifth-round pick Danny Coale (left foot), 2012 fourth-round pick Matt Johnson (hamstring), veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder) and guard/center Kevin Kowalski (ankle).
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