Consider this Jaylon Smith’s redshirt freshman season with the Dallas Cowboys.
Smith is among a group of players that opened camp today with the rookies and coach Jason Garrett had nothing but good things to say about the linebacker.
Smith, 22, is working diligently to return from a severe knee injury sustained during Notre Dame’s bowl game Jan. 1, 2016. He tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, and had damage to the peroneal nerve.
That’s why Smith dropped from a possible top-10 pick into the second round in the 2016 draft when the Cowboys selected him.
“He’s done well, really had a great spring and handled the work on the field really well,” Garrett said. “He’s been outstanding in his rehab and that’s one of the reasons we took the chance on him that we did. I think we had a really good feel for the kind of person that he is based on our experiences with the people at Notre Dame and what they said about him and then just our experiences throughout the evaluation process.
“Trust me, he hasn’t had bad days. He comes to work every day with a great spirit. It’s a challenging injury he was coming back from and he’s handled it very well. Still have a long ways to go. We’re going to take it day by day, but he’s made a lot of progress.”
Garrett said Smith will follow a similar practice schedule of working every other day when the Cowboys have their first training camp practice Monday in Oxnard, California.
The Cowboys will take similar approaches with other players returning from injuries.
“We’ve just got to be careful about getting ahead of ourselves with him and some of the other guys,” Garrett said. “We’ll see how they handle the work early on and we’ll come up with a plan as we go.”
As far as the rest of the rookies who reported today, Garrett said it’s a benefit to have them adjust to the way the Cowboys run things going into camp.
“Just an opportunity to get themselves acclimated and get their feet under them,” Garrett said.