Most associate football workouts with players pumping iron or doing sprints to boost their speed and strength.
That doesn’t seem like a workout many football players would undertake, but it’s paid off for Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith.
"I was curious," Smith said. "I'm a Gemini, very observant, and I just thought, 'Why don’t I try to work on my flexibility more and learning how to breathe and learning how to really focus?' That’s something that yoga provides."
Smith spent his first month of the offseason going to "hot yoga" classes. He has a yoga instructor visit him when he’s home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, or he’ll attend group classes at "Yoga on Main" when he’s in Frisco.
That, coupled with his other workouts, has Smith feeling in his best shape. He said he’s up 8 pounds in muscle mass and is at 3.5 percent body fat.
Oh, and Smith is no longer wearing a brace for drop foot. He feels freer on the field and feels it will only pay off in the long run. He feels he’s faster because of it, saying he runs the short shuttle in 3.98 seconds without it compared to 4.03 seconds with it.
"Everything just feels better," Smith said. "From my motion to my quickness to my explosiveness to just my overall knowledge of the game. I had to take a year off from playing football, so definitely from learning experiences that I had to go through. But I’m taking everything in for sure."
Smith missed his entire rookie season in 2016 recovering from injuries to his anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee and overcoming damage to the peroneal nerve in his final game at Notre Dame.
He returned to game action last season, and played in all 16 games, including six starts. He finished with the second-most tackles on the team, 99, along with four tackles for loss, four QB pressures, one sack and two forced fumbles.
"Going from possibly not being able to play the game of football again to being able to compete a full year at the highest level, the National Football League, everything is just going to continue to grow," Smith said.
Smith said he’s on "that race to 100 percent," but wouldn’t specify what percentage he felt he was at.
Asked if it was "93," Smith smiled and said: "I don’t know. Definitely an odd number."
Either way, the Cowboys are pleased with his progress and see positives on the field that suggest he may continue to get closer to being the player he was in college.
That much has been seen during the first couple of weeks of organized team activities.
"It just looks football-ish, athletic, it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of hitch," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He just looks like he’s really becoming himself again when he was back in college. The movement is starting to really look good."
Maybe it’s the yoga. At the very least, Smith has a new routine for the first month of the offseason going forward.
"I started it and I fell in love with it," Smith said. "When you’re a professional, it’s all about developing a routine. From now on, the month of January, or the month of February – whenever the season ends, Super Bowl – that’s going to be the first thing that I do is dive into yoga three times a week."