IRVING, Texas – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made some headlines by claiming rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith could indeed be a part of the team's plans for 2016.
The second-round pick echoed those sentiments on Thursday when he arrived at Valley Ranch for the first time with his fellow rookies for this weekend's minicamp.
"Absolutely … I'm not ruling myself out. I never have and I never will," Smith said in reference to Jones' comments. "It's all a part of God's plan. For the owner to have faith in me, that says a lot. I'm ready to get to work, grind hard and get back out there."
Actually, there were two interesting aspects of Jones' statement on 105.3 FM "The Fan" on Thursday. Not only did he say Smith might not begin the season on injured reserve, but Jones also offered that Smith could be "ready for the playoffs."
Smith underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee back in January to repair a torn ACL and LCL. With possible nerve damage, some NFL teams were reluctant to draft him at all, fearful the nerves might not ever fire up again. Dr. Dan Cooper, who not only performed the surgery, but also serves as the one of the Cowboys' team doctors, obviously provided enough information to make the Cowboys comfortable with taking him No. 34 overall.
The initial thought was Smith might just sit out the entire 2016 season and get ready for 2017, which still could happen. There are some other options as well, though, including Smith starting the season on NFI (Non-Football Injury), which could keep him on the reserved list for 6-12 weeks of the season.
Smith said he plans on transitioning his rehab from Notre Dame to Dallas "as soon as possible."
As for this weekend's rookie minicamp, Smith said he will be on the field as much as possible, just to get himself close to the action.
"I'm a sponge. I'm willing to soak everything in," he said. "But yeah, absolutely, I'll be out there to watch and learn. I'm excited about (this weekend). It's real cool to be around my new teammates. A lot of us know each other already or have heard of each other. It's just a matter of time to get acclimated with one another."
Smith is also talking about working his way into the mix at linebacker, mentioning a couple of veterans he's excited about playing with. When asked about his potential position, he considers himself "a pass rusher" but is willing to play anywhere.
"I'm a pass rusher. I know how to go get that quarterback," Smith said. "For me, I'm just grateful to be a part of this linebacking corps of [Rolando] McLain and Sean Lee. We're going to do some great things."[embeddedad0]
Smith was projected as a top-10 draft pick for 2016 before suffering the injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Obviously, the injury cost Smith as much 30 draft spots and a few guaranteed millions as well. But you'd never know by looking at Smith, who has no regrets.
"I'm on cloud nine right now," Smith said. "There's no time to regret things. For me, everyone is dealt their own hand. I've attacked my adversity full throttle. I'm ready to go.
And if Jones and Smith have their way, those things could occur sooner than later.
The 2016 rookie class reported to Valley Ranch for physicals and rookie minicamp.