Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones calls the presence, play and progress of linebacker Jaylon Smith one of the highlights of training camp so far.
He said Smith’s is healthy enough to play in a game, but the Cowboys will remain painstakingly deliberate in how they bring him along after missing all of last season with a devastating knee injury and nerve damage.
Smith didn’t play in the preseason opener in the Hall of Fame game against the Arizona Cardinals. The team has yet to decide if he will play in the second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday.
Jones plans on having Smith in a Cowboys uniform for the next 10 years, so they aren’t going to rush him into a game. He said there have been no setbacks and all the arrows are pointing to Smith playing in a game soon.
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“We are seeing how he progresses,” Jones said. “No need to jump ahead and make a decision whether it’s this week or next week. We will see how he progresses this week and see how he responds. ... The time will come when we decide, ‘Has he had enough to put him in a game situation against the Rams?’
“The big thing about Jaylon is he is better every time he goes out there. He is more and more comfortable with it. At the same time, if you left it up to him, he would be going every play in the Hall of Fame game. We have to protect Jaylon at the end of the day for Jaylon. He is going to around here for many years to come. We have to handle it the right way for Jaylon.”
Jones said Smith has overcome major hurdles daily in training camp, starting with his ability to practice in pads on consecutive days to being on the field in goal line drills.
The Cowboys medical staff is watching and monitoring his every move and every step to give him the best chance to have success in practice and games, when the time comes, per Jones.
The nerve is firing, but it’s something that must be monitored closely. But Jones reiterated that Smith’s health is at the point where he can play football.
“His baseline is where he can play football,” Jones said. “Now we have to ease him into it because it fatigues when obviously you don’t have a muscle that has nerves to it as long as his did then it fatigues easier. You have to build that up over time and build it the right way so you don’t have any issues there.
“At same time, give him the reps that he is comfortable with. I think his baseline health is a point where he can play. It’s just getting him in that football shape and doing things the right way. Jaylon is going to be around here for the next 10 years and we don’t want to do anything that’s not taking care of Jaylon.”