When the Dallas Cowboys look at ways they hope to be better in 2017, they are not just looking at improvement in the upcoming in NFL Draft.
They are counting on improvement from within. And they are most notably pointing to linebacker Jaylon Smith, the 2016 second-round pick who missed all of last season rehabbing a college knee injury suffered in his final bowl game at Notre Dame.
Making Smith’s inclusion even more interesting is that he is still suffering from nerve damage in the knee and still wears a brace to offset drop foot.
But Smith, a top-10 talent who dropped to the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft because of the injury, has shown significant progress in his rehab and workouts even with the brace.
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He is so excited and so focused that routinely post videos of his workouts on social media.
The Cowboys are excited and confident as well. So much so that they have not only cleared him to start the off-season program with the team April 21 but they plan on him going through organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and playing in 2017.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the confidence in Smith being a major contributor is very high within the Cowboys organization even though he can’t name anyone who has played with a brace for drop foot.
“And you don’t know how long he is going to have to have the brace,” Jones said. “Our guys are getting real comfortable that he can be a great contributor with a brace.But he may not have the brace. But our guys feel comfortable after working with him that he can play with the brace. I’m not so sure he will have to play with the brace. It’s not a given. We will see.”
And regarding the nerve damage, Jones remains optimistic that it will continue to improve and go away because some feeling has already come back.
“Once that stuff usually starts to fire, which it did, then it usually improves each time,” Jones said.