Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 5/4/12
IRVING, Texas Morris Claiborne was anxious to put on a Dallas Cowboys jersey for the first time, even if it was just a practice jersey. "I mean, I couldn't wait," Claiborne, the Cowboys' first round draft pick, said after his first workout at rookie camp Friday. I probably was the first person with mine on." Putting on Cowboys gear means a lot to Claiborne, the sixth overall pick out of LSU, because he grew up in a family of Dallas Cowboys fans. Claiborne, a cornerback, was shocked when his family's favorite team drafted him after a last-minute trade. The Cowboys, who had the No. 14 pick before trading up, had not spoken to him during the pre-draft process. But when his name was called, Claiborne got tears in his eyes as he embraced his mother. "When I looked back and I saw everybody that was sitting at the table, and just knowing that all those guys are Cowboys fans" Claiborne said. "When I said 'Cowboys' just the surprised looks on their faces, it did something to me." Like a lot of youngsters, Claiborne rooted for particular athletes instead of a designated team when he was growing up. "But my whole family was Cowboys fans," he said. "So every time they had a game, I was watching." Claiborne was supposed to just watch during the two-day rookie camp because he is recovering from surgery to repair ligament damage in his left wrist. However, Claiborne couldn't resist participating in a few walk-thru drills. He can't run because of pins inserted in the wrist, but Claiborne wasn't about to stand on the sidelines in street clothes. "I knew I was limited in what I was going to do, but I was still going to dress with the team and go out with those guys," Claiborne said. "I wanted to do some of the stuff the other guys were doing, but I know I can't. I know I have to sit back and relax and let my body heal, but I was anxious to get in." The effort to participate in practice didn't go unnoticed by his new employer. "I was glad to see him get out there," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "We didn't expect anything from him and wanted him to be here, and he wanted to be here. But he did a few things out there without his helmet. He obviously moves good." The pins and hard cast will be removed next week, Claiborne said. He will have to wear a soft cast for a while but should be fully healed by the time training camp opens. Claiborne played last season with the wrist injury, suffered in the first meeting with Alabama. He intended to put off surgery until after his rookie season in the NFL, but was convinced at the draft combine to go ahead and have the procedure. "I don't want to be left behind," Claiborne said. "When it's really time for camp when everybody's here, I don't want to feel like I've lost a step. I can't get out there and do it, but I was taking all the mental reps." It's doubtful the Cowboys would let Claiborne fall behind. After suffering through a season with deficiencies in pass coverage, the addition of Claiborne and free agent Brandon Carr is expected to rejuvenate the secondary. "Especially in our division, you've got to have outstanding corners to line up," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "It's been well-documented that we would have been third in the league in defense if we didn't play the Giants or the Eagles. Unfortunately, they're on the schedule. For us to beat them, we've got to do a hell of a lot better job than we did." The Cowboys lost a starting cornerback when veteran Terence Newman was cut after the season. Mike Jenkins is a returning starter and Orlando Scandrick has been both a starter and a nickel back. Claiborne's coverage skills could resolve many of the weakness shown by the secondary last season, but he stopped short of saying he expects to start. "I expect to go out and give 100 percent," Claiborne said. "The sky's the limit. I'm going to go out every day and work hard and try to earn a spot on this team. It's a goal to start. Who wouldn't want to start?" "I believe I can come in and help lock down those receivers that need to be locked down. I believe I can fit in with this team great." While Claiborne got to wear a Cowboys jersey for the first time, like all other rookies the new helmet in his locker didn't have the iconic blue star on it. "Oh yeah, I know you've got to earn that," Claiborne said. "None of us here have done anything to earn that star just yet, but we're taking little steps." Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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