Cowboys Not Rushing Smith Back, But LB Says He’ll Be Ready For Opener

GRAPEVINE, Texas – The Cowboys are not planning to see linebacker Jaylon Smith participate in this weekend’s minicamp for rookies and first-year players.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solid plan in place for the rehabbing linebacker who missed all of last year with a knee injury.

Speaking at the annual Cowboys Golf Tournament in Grapevine, team owner Jerry Jones said he expects Smith to be able to practice perhaps later this month in the OTAs at The Star in Frisco.

But it won’t be every day as the Cowboys continue to ease Smith into the mix after suffering a major injury to his knee and the nerves that required surgery more than a year ago.

“Jaylon will be practicing,” Jones said referring to the OTA sessions that begin at the end of this month. “What we want to do is keep him fresh. We’ll probably alternate days with him. When we get to those OTAs, you’ll probably see him every other day.”

Jones reiterated that won’t necessarily be the plan for Smith moving forward into the summer and into meaning camp.

“No, we anticipate him getting stronger (by camp),” Jones said. “He continues to get better. And we think he will keep improving. But that’s why we want him to alternate days so he can stay fresh.”

Smith played in Wednesday’s golf tournament with the sponsors. He told reporters on the course that his offseason work is going great and he expects to play in the Cowboys’ Sept. 10 season opener against the New York Giants.

Throughout the process, Smith has remained overly confident, whether through media interviews or his personal social media accounts.

Smith has been wearing a brace throughout his rehab process but said he's doing everything in the voluntary offseason program. Whether he can play without the brace depends on the regeneration of the nerve.

When he’s finally cleared to play, Smith is expected to line up at middle linebacker in the Cowboys’ defense. He was drafted 34th overall in 2016, but likely would’ve been a Top 10 pick had he not suffered the injury in the previous Fiesta Bowl game for Notre Dame. 

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