OXNARD, Calif. – Arguably the biggest storyline of training camp – when Jaylon Smith will make in his NFL debut in game action – doesn't have a hard timeline.
The Cowboys continue to take a deliberate, day-to-day approach with their promising first-year linebacker as he works back into padded practices for the first time in 18 months, prior to the devastating knee injury that wiped out his entire 2016 rookie season.
"I think we're just seeing how he progresses," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "There's no need to jump ahead and make a decision – whether it's this week or next week – whatever it may be. We'll just kind of see how he progresses this week, how he responds."
Smith has practiced in pads for the majority of camp, including three straight practices last week before he was rested in the Hall of Fame Game.
Jones credited the team's medical staff for Smith's successful rehab. He said the team will make a decision later in the week on whether he'll be available in Saturday's second preseason game against the L.A. Rams.
The Cowboys believe he looks more and more comfortable in each workout. He's still wearing a brace to assist his foot's movement, a result of the nerve damage he suffered with the knee injury on Jan. 1, 2016.
"I think his baseline is where he can play football. So now we've just got to ease him into it, because there's fatigue – obviously, when you don't have a muscle that's had nerves to it for as long as his did, it fatigues easier," Jones said. "So you've got to build that up over time and do it the right way so that we don't have any issue there. At the same time give him the reps that he's getting comfortable with.
"I think his baseline health is at a point where he could play; it's just getting him in that football shape and doing things the right way. As I said, I think Jaylon is going to be around here for the next 10 years, and we don't want to do anything that's not taking care of Jaylon."