FRISCO, Texas – Facing a deadline to decide on their prospects, the Cowboys will activate both Darren McFadden and Jaylon Smith from the NFI list this week.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones spoke to 105.3 FM The Fan on Monday following Sunday's 27-17 win against Baltimore. Asked about some of the team's long-term injury concerns, Jones acknowledged that both players will be activated – rather than the alternative, which is season-ending injured reserve.
"We'll probably activate them both," he said.
It's long been guessed that McFadden would eventually be healthy enough to practice this season, so it's not shocking to hear that he'll open his three-week practice window while the Cowboys decide whether to add him to the active roster.
Much more intriguing is Smith, who has been a subject of constant speculation since the Cowboys drafted him No. 34 overall just months removed from a major knee injury. The rookie linebacker has come a long way in his rehab from ACL and LCL tears, but there are still lingering questions about the functionality of the peroneal nerve in his left knee.
While it might be intriguing to see the Cowboys remove Smith from the NFI, Jones was sure to temper expectations, adding that Smith isn't ready to practice as of now.
"It doesn't mean that anything will change with Jaylon in terms of his routine," he said. "I don't actually see him, even though he's eligible to practice."
That's bound to raise questions about why the Cowboys would activate Smith if he's unable to practice. The answer is that it buys them time. Neither Smith nor McFadden will count toward the 53-man roster for the next 21 days, so it allows them to participate without the Cowboys having to make a decision.
Three weeks from now, they'll have to decide whether to add McFadden to the roster, and whether to send Smith to IR. Until then, they have more time to work with both players.
"So, really it will just be Jaylon and McFadden that we give them that shot to keep them alive and McFadden will actually return to practice full bore," Jones said. "But Jaylon's routine won't change at the moment."
James Hanna is also part of this conversation, but Jones said the fifth-year tight end has undergone a second surgery on his knee, which will send him to IR for the remainder of the season.