The Cowboys placed Jaylon Smith on season-ending injured reserve, but owner Jerry Jones retains faith the rookie linebacker will contribute to the team in the future.
“He does have the kind of feeling, the kind of rejuventated – I’ll use that word – feeling regarding his nerve,” Jones said Tuesday on his weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan. “He is seeing those things that doctors really place a high value on. Plus, just how he has established his work ethic, his rehab. He’s been just a complete focused real overachiever, and of course we know what kind of football player he is. He arguably was one of the better ones in the whole draft. He’s a cornerstone for us for the future, and I feel good, real good about the future. As a matter of fact, if we weren’t just forced to, I wouldn’t put him on inactive today. But it just does not make sense to give up a player that we know will be there to help us.”
When the Cowboys drafted Smith in the second round, they expected this to be a redshirt season. The Notre Dame product sustained nerve damage in his left knee after tearing the ACL and the MCL during the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
Smith still is running with a brace on his foot.
But Jones had held out hope Smith might help the Cowboys this season. Jones said Tuesday the Cowboys would love to keep Smith available for a possible Super Bowl run, hoping the nerve will refire, but they can’t afford the roster spot.
“In the NFL, at a certain point in the season, you have to fish or cut bait,” Jones said. “You declare are you still going to keep him technically where he could still come on the active roster. That happened at the same time we did [Darren] McFadden three weeks ago. You had three weeks of them working out to then today make the decision: Are you going to activate them or not? We’re making the decision to activate McFadden. We have to decide, and in doing so, you have to take a guy off the active roster. We’re taking one off for McFadden. We decided it wasn’t worth the continued observation and continued looking for Jaylon Smith to get to where he could really help us this year. We actually have almost two months before we would play in the ultimate game, that if he were ready to play, we’d like to have him. A couple of years ago when he played Green Bay right out there at Green Bay when Dez’s famous no-catch, we’d made the decision earlier in the year to deactivate permanently for the year Sean Lee. That was good. Worked out good. But wouldn’t it have been nice to have a healthy Sean Lee still available. The price you would have had to pay is the last three weeks of the season you wouldn’t have had a roster spot that you’d think you’d need to use. That’s a long-winded way of saying we had to fish or cut bait today. We decided to go ahead and put him on injured reserve.”