FRISCO (105.3 THE FAN) – The Dallas Cowboys say they are “fired up” about Jaylon Smith’s chance to play in 2017. Unfortunately, that’s not “fire” reference that is required here. But how about that lifting? And how about those toes?
“He’s doing great,” COO Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan last week when asked about Smith’s participation in the ongoing offseason workouts. “He’s making great improvements. We’re certainly more fired up than ever that we picked him last year.”
That is saying something, as the Cowboys have long acted quite cocksure how about the chances for recovery for the middle linebacker who sat out his entire rookie season due to a major knee injury suffered in the final game of his Notre Dame career.
And now there is this: At Monday’s pre-Draft press conference at The Star in Frisco, coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones echoed and added to that confidence.
I asked Jerry very specifically if Smith is still dealing with dropfoot. “Not as much an issue as it was three weeks ago, not as much of an issue as it was three weeks before that, ” Jerry responded. “He’s liftin’ those toes.”
I have detailed before Smith’s own sunshiny approach to his recovery. We have also written volumes on how team owner Jerry Jones has a propensity for positivity. And we already knew that the team expected Smith to be on the field during these spring workouts, and then doing even more demanding work in the upcoming OTA’s.
But the comments from Stephen – who is generally far more reserved than his father – yes a reason for optimism.
“When you look at how we improve our defense over last year, him and (fourth-rounder Charles) Tapper both, as we all know, were high picks for us that didn’t contribute last year,” Stephen said. “We certainly have high hopes for both of those guys and feel like they’re going to be ready to go here when OTAs and mini-camp start.”
Nevertheless, Smith – a top-10 talent in last year’s class before the injury, which included ligament tears and nerve damage that caused him to drop to Dallas in the second round – is still facing obstacles. Until the nerve fully “fires” (and there is no medical guarantee that it ever will) he must wear an ankle brace and deal with dropfoot. There are those inside the Cowboys organization who believe Smith can be effective even while wearing the corrective device. But at this early stage that is nothing more than a theory; skepticism is as justified as positivism is.
“Don’t make it a given he’s going to have a brace on (when he plays this year,’’ Jerry said, and that’s a tip that this story is headed in a wonderful direction.
What Cowboys Nation is really waiting to hear about isn’t whether the Jones’ are “fired” up, down, or sideways. The core issue is whether Jaylon Smith’s nerve is “firing,” period.
And the proof can’t come at press conferences, or even in OTAs.
The Jaylon Smith proof can only come on the field, at full speed, with the potential star lifting not just his toes … but the entire Dallas defense.