Jaylon Smith hasn’t even stepped on the field, but there is already a buzz about him at training camp.
Thank Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for that.
Jones didn’t tap the brakes in his praise of Smith during the ‘State of the Cowboys’ news conference on Sunday afternoon.
Jones went as far as saying the organization had Smith rated as the top prospect in the 2016 draft – the same draft that produced Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott – before he sustained a severe knee injury during Notre Dame’s bowl game Jan. 1, 2016.
The Cowboys used their second-round pick to take Smith.
“He was at the top of the board and would have been at the top of the board this year,” Jones said. “The caveat is what we all wonder. Can he play like he had the career playing at that particular time? So that’s what we’re here to see. To me, he’s just like looking at a No. 1 draft pick out here coming out on the field for the first time.
“We all know his circumstances and what he needs to overcome. It looks really good, all testing, all feeling, really looks as good as I could have hoped that it would look at the time. We’ll see.”
Smith, 22, is working diligently to return from the knee injury when he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, and had damage to the peroneal nerve.
Smith has been wearing a brace on his ankle and foot and is expected to continue doing so in camp. But he’ll be monitored early on.
The Cowboys will likely have Smith working every other day as they take a cautious approach in him getting acclimated again.
“We’re going to look after his best interests,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “He’s ready. He’s dying to go every play, right now. He also knows that we want to do what’s best for Jaylon. We all know being in shape and being ready is a lot different than playing football.
“I think he could do it, but we’re going to take the safe route every step of the way. I think everybody’s going to be pleasantly surprised with how well he does.”
Smith won’t be the only player limited early on in camp. Others include offensive lineman Joe Looney; defensive ends Benson Mayowa, DeMarcus Lawrence and Charles Tapper; and tight ends Geoff Swaim and James Hanna.