Having just completed its best regular season in nearly a decade by finishing with a 13-3 record, the Dallas Cowboys have a very bright present. However, if the words of Cowboy rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith are prophetic, the ‘Boys’ future appears to be pretty bright, as well.
The former Bishop Luers High School and Notre Dame star spoke with the Dallas Morning News Thursday regarding his devastating knee injury that he suffered a year ago and he was very upbeat about his health and future.
“It’s regenerating,” Smith said of the nerve in his left leg. “It’s just a thing that you have to have patience.”
Smith hurt the knee on a play in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl 367 days ago, but the injury was severe due to nerve damage, which prevented him from playing at all this season. Dallas placed him on injured reserve in December, which eliminated his opportunity to be utilized in the 2016 postseason, which he indicated was a real possibility.
“I think I could’ve played and competed at an elite level,” Smith said, “but with us coming together and realizing the situation with the nerve coming back, we’re going to be patient and trust God’s timing.”
Smith was projected as a high first round NFL Draft selection during his junior season with the Fighting Irish, but following the injury, he dropped to the second round when the Cowboys took a chance on him. He spent the past year rehabilitating and has made progress.
Smith said he recently ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and he is regaining his agility.
“There are things I didn’t have before that I’m definitely getting now,” Smith said. “It feels like it’s coming back.
“Me running, now I’m comfortable with the push-off and everything and I’m getting my linear speed back.”
Dallas is immersed in a chase for the 2017 Super Bowl, but Smith could be an active participant during its off-season work later in the spring and then into training camp in the summer.
“He’s made tremendous progress,” Cowboys veteran coach Jason Garrett said. “It doesn’t surprise us one bit.”
The Cowboys start veterans Sean Lee (seventh NFL season) and Andrew Gachkar (sixth year) at the outside linebacker positions in its base 4-3 defense, and have Justin Durant (10th year) and young Damien Wilson (second season) backing them up.
“I’ve accepted the reality I won’t be playing this year,” Smith said. “I’ve come to terms with it. I understand God has a plan. Just having patience. I’ve been thankful to be on this team and to watch my guys go out there and ball.
“I support and learn anyway I can.”