IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones holds out hope that cornerback Morris Claiborne can live up to the potential the team saw when it traded up to select him with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Jones infamously declared that Claiborne was the best cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders after the Cowboys traded their top two picks to the St. Louis Rams to move up eight spots two years ago. Earlier this week, Jones acknowledged that Claiborne had not been what the Cowboys had hoped up to this point, an obvious admission about a cornerback who has been picked on consistently throughout his career.
Claiborne has been in the national spotlight this week after hastily leaving the team's training facility Tuesday when informed that Orlando Scandrick would start over him, skipping the Cowboys' walk-through practice, film session and meetings. Claiborne, who was beat out for the starting job last year, as well, apologized before the team meeting the next morning and will play Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints.
"He's in the right place with his heart," Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. "He's an outstanding talent, outstanding athlete. Has got a lot of work to do and has missed the evolving that you'd expect a young player in the NFL to have because of various injuries, various reasons.
"We think, I think, that if he can get in the groove, get his repetition, get in the same groove he was in in the early part of our two-a-days out in California, then I think he can become the player that we expect him to be."
Claiborne and Scandrick, who was suspended the first two games of the season, split time in Sunday's win over the Rams. Claiborne made his third career interception to seal the win, but he conceded after the Cowboys' 34-31 victory that he "stunk it up." The Rams completed five passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns against Claiborne, who was also called for a defensive holding penalty.
Claiborne, who has not played in the past two preseasons becuase of injuries, said Wednesday that he "knows I deserve to start" because of how hard he has worked.
"That's good," Jones said. "He's shown serious competitiveness. ... You've got to have an attitude, in my mind, if you're out there at corner. He's got -- and he knows as well as we do -- he's got what it takes to be a starter.
"But you've got to show me. You've got to show the team. You've got to show the coaches, and you do that by what shows up on that tape. He's got to put it on tape in practice. He's got to put it on tape when he gets in the game.
"He's got to show that he's going to be technically sound, that he basically understands his first assignment. Then we know that when given the opportunity, his athletic ability will kick in and he can play."