Morris Claiborne had to do a couple of things this spring.
One, get bigger.
Two, get stronger.
So far, so good.
“I feel like I’ve had a tremendous offseason with getting in the weight room and trying to get stronger,” the second-year cornerback said Tuesday after the Dallas Cowboys’ first OTA practice at Valley Ranch. “Actually, I put on a couple of pounds. Last year, I was at 187. Now I’m at 193. So I’m just trying to learn how to move with that weight and just get comfortable.”
Claiborne and the Cowboys figure he can use the extra weight to become a stronger tackler, a skill that will be required more from the cornerbacks under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Last year as a rookie, Claiborne never got up to speed with his strength because he spent the spring recovering from wrist surgery.
“There were times last year where he wasn’t strong enough to execute a certain technique,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “So he had to get stronger to do that. He’s done the work to do that.”
Claiborne has known all spring about the physical style that will be required of him and fellow corner Brandon Carr. But he believes he is ready for it and feels confident as he enters his second pro season.
“I told someone the other day, I feel a difference when I pull up in the facility than I did a year ago,” Claiborne said. “I feel like nothing’s too much new to me. I expect everything how it was last year. We’ve got a couple of coaching changes, but nothing stopping. I’m just trying to continue to get more comfortable, continue to get more established in this system, so I can go out and play and have fun.”
WASN’T NEED-TO-KNOW: Why the Cowboys waited until OTAs began to tell everyone about Tony Romo’s cyst
The Dallas Cowboys waited until OTAs began to tell everyone about Tony Romo’s cyst and that he wouldn’t be practicing since he had it removed from his back.
So why the big secret? Why not announce the procedure when it was performed on the $108 million quarterback, who would be held out the entirety of OTAs, not just for a practice or two? Routine stuff — surgery successful, expect a full, quick recovery, yada yada yada.
Romo’s reasoning: if it doesn’t help the team, why bother?
“I don’t feel it’s in anyone’s best interest just to come out and talk about anything that goes on,” he told reporters Tuesday at Valley Ranch. “It doesn’t help your football team. Predominantly, most of the decisions you make are about helping the football team, and that’s what you fall back on in those decisions.”
So Romo and the Cowboys decided not to say anything until they had to. They figured a 20-minute gaggle with reporters after the first practice would get the news just as well as a quick email blast.
“Well, I don’t talk to you guys very often,” Romo said. “I figured it was just easier than to schedule a press conference and say, ‘Hey, I had a minor procedure. All right. Goodbye.’
“It seems silly, honestly.”
The Dallas Cowboys’ play-caller isn’t undecided. It’s unannounced.
The mystery has been ongoing since the Senior Bowl when Jerry Jones hinted that coach Jason Garrett no longer would call the offensive plays, a role Garrett has held since 2007 when he became offensive coordinator. Bill Callahan, who became offensive coordinator/offensive line coach in 2012, is expected to have a bigger hand in the offense regardless whether he is actually calling the plays. Quarterback Tony Romo also will have more say.
Garrett, though, repeatedly has refused to definitively say how the mechanics will work on game day. He was asked again Tuesday if the Cowboys still were working on the mechanics of the play-calling.
“Yeah,” Garrett answered. “I think that’s a fair way to say it. …I think we have a pretty good plan, and we’ll execute it as the offseason progresses.”
For his part, Romo said he doesn’t care who calls the plays.
“That’s a big topic for you guys,” Romo said of the media. “I’m sure you’ll wear that one out until [it’s announced]. I mean, I’m just the quarterback, and I’m just trying to continue to get better and improve and help this team.”
Dez Bryant is coming off his most quiet offseason as a pro. No family problems. No being asked to leave a mall. No complaints about unpaid bills.
His offseason has been peaceful and enjoyable.
“I’d say I found myself. I’m comfortable in my life,” the fourth-year Cowboys receiver said Tuesday on the first day of OTAs at Valley Ranch. “I’m enjoying being in the NFL. I wish it could have been a couple years back, but I had to go through a couple of things to figure it out.
“I think I’ve got it. I’m just more focused on my job and doing what I love to do, and I just play football.”
Bryant, 24, is coming off his best season with the Cowboys. Last year, he caught 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, playing in all 16 games for the first time.
Bryant said he became more comfortable as a pro by being around pros – players who have succeeded in the NFL for years.
“Listening and looking at people who do it right,” he said. “I had to get around people who do it right. I feel like that’s been my steppingstone – the older guys.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said it makes sense that Bryant struggled with his personal life early in his NFL career because many young players do.
“Picture yourself as a 21-year-old coming into this environment, with all the hype and the circumstance around being a No. 1 draft pick in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys,” Garrett said. “He had to work through that like a lot of guys have to work through that, and he had to mature and understand what’s important. I think he’s done all of that. … He’s gotten some of these other things in his life kind of organized, and together, it reflects in his play.”