INDIANAPOLIS – Cowboys Jason Garrett echoed the positive statements team executive vice president Stephen Jones made Tuesday about 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith's progress recovering from the serious knee injury that sidelined him his entire rookie season.
"He's worked very hard in his rehab," Garrett said Wednesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. "He and (associate athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation) Britt Brown and (strength and conditioning coordinator) Mike Woicik, they spent a lot of time together. He's worked hard to come back from that, there's no question. He's made a lot of progress; his workouts seem to be getting better and better and better.
"We anticipate him being in the offseason program and really doing everything from the outset, but we'll have to watch him as we go just like we would with anybody coming back from an injury."
Teams with returning head coaches like the Cowboys can begin their voluntary offseason program on April 17, according to NFL.com.
Smith spent the season on the Non-Football Injury list after tearing his ACL and suffering nerve damage in his final college game at Notre Dame on Jan. 1, 2016.
The nerve must regenerate on its own; that process has no timetable, but Smith has been wearing a foot brace in his rehab. Jones said Tuesday the team believes Smith can play with the brace.[embeddedad0]
"I think he's got a great opportunity, if he keeps on his current path, to be a dominant player for us," Jones said. "Now to say I expect that when he's not there yet? That's tough to have that expectation. But I think we do expect him to contribute and be a big part of our defense this year. The question is how physically well he gets by the start of next season in terms of does some of what he still has hampering him somewhat. But our guys are convinced he can play in his current condition and it should only improve as we go."