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Cowboys Excited To Bring Jaylon Smith Into The Fold As Recovery Continues

IRVING, Texas – Every single offseason, it's staggering how quickly the excitement of the NFL draft transitions to the work of the offseason program.

The Cowboys released their schedule for rookie minicamp on Tuesday afternoon, outlining the work load for their draft picks and undrafted free agents this coming weekend. It's always odd to think that, after a five-month process of preparing for the draft, the rookies will be at work less than one week after the drama of the draft.

"We talk about Draft Day and being excited for Draft Day," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Sunday night. "But I tell every one of them 'Five or six days after the draft, you're going to be on a football field somewhere in a rookie minicamp. So as you're traveling around and visiting different teams, make sure you're working out, make sure you have cleats on and you're on a grass field somewhere getting some work in.'"

The rookies will undergo a morning walkthrough and an afternoon practice during minicamp, which runs from Friday until Sunday.

As unusual as it might feel for these draft picks to get back to football, it highlights one of the Cowboys' more unique circumstances. One of their most high-profile new players, linebacker Jaylon Smith, won't be on the field this weekend – or any time soon. As has been well-documented, the No. 34 overall pick is in the midst of a lengthy rehab of a major injury he suffered on Jan. 1.

Despite that fact, Garrett was adamant about the importance of getting Smith adapted to the Cowboys' program in ways beyond playing football.

"I think the biggest thing for him in regard to getting acclimated is he'll be involved in all the meetings and he'll be around our football team on a day-by-day basis trying to learn what we're doing," Garrett said. "At the same time, the rehab will be a big part of his life. He's got to spend a lot of time doing that. We have great people in place who are going to help him do that -- we'll have a great plan for him in that regard. But we need to teach him football and get him up to snuff as quickly as we can."

Speculation about Smith's availability in 2016 and 2017 has been rampant since the Cowboys selected him on Friday evening. Even that feels premature given that he's just four months removed from tearing his ACL and LCL and stretching his peroneal nerve in Notre Dame's Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State.

It obviously works in Smith's – and the Cowboys' – favor that the person who did his surgery is Dr. Dan Cooper, the team's head physician. The Cowboys' knowledge of Smith's injury was a major factor in their willingness to draft him, as Cooper outlined the linebacker's recovery process for USA Today in the buildup to the draft.

"For me it's just progressing each and every day," Smith said following his selection. "I've been running for three and a half weeks now. It's just a progress and time is definitely a place where you have to be patient. I've been killing it."

As he said, Smith is already running and doing some light drill work. Now, he can continue that work in Dallas with the Cowboys' athletic training staff.

"They do such a great job with our players," Garrett said. "First of all, evaluating the players coming out in the draft. Then, once we get the players, whatever their issues are, they do such a great job bringing them back as quickly as possible."

It might not involve him playing football, but that process can now begin with Smith as soon as this week.


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