Jaylon Smith said last month the nerve in his injured left knee has begun regenerating, offering encouragement in his rehab. Though Smith still wears a brace for his drop foot, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys believe the linebacker can play with it.
“Then the question is: How effective can he be in that brace?” Jones said Tuesday. “We think he’s going to be real effective, but how effective remains to be seen, and that’s why I think it’s difficult to say, ‘Well, we expect him to be the dominant player he was at Notre Dame.’ That’s probably high expectations. Is it possible? Absolutely.”
At least one NFL offensive lineman wears an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO), according to a source.
Smith tore his the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee during Notre Dame’s bowl game Jan. 1, 2016. Damage to the peroneal nerve was more problematic, but the Cowboys trusted Dr. Dan Cooper, their team physician who performed the surgery on Smith.
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Cooper gave a 9-15-month timeline for the nerve to fully recover.
The Cowboys essentially used a redshirt season on Smith after making him a second-round pick. They have hopes he will contribute this season.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” Jones said. “I think he’s got a great opportunity, if he keeps on his current path, to be a dominant player for us. Now to say I expect that when he’s not there yet? That’s tough to have that expectation. But I think we do expect him to contribute and be a big part of our defense this year. The question is how physically well he gets by the start of next season in terms of some of what he still has hampering him somewhat. But our guys are convinced he can play in his current condition, and it should only improve as we go.”