OXNARD, Calif. – For the first time since joining the Cowboys as a second-round pick 15 months ago, Jaylon Smith will practice in pads.
Head coach Jason Garrett said the 22-year-old linebacker will take part in a limited portion of Wednesday's afternoon practice after participating in the first two days of mostly position drill work.
Smith missed his rookie season with a knee injury that included nerve damage. Wearing a brace to assist mobility with his foot, he practiced every other day during this year's offseason program.
Garrett said Smith has passed every hurdle in his rehab with the athletic training staff since being drafted five months after the devastating injury he suffered in his final college game Jan. 1, 2016.
"I first met him at the Combine. We went through the whole process with him, and the reports from Notre Dame were off the charts, and our experiences with him leading up to the draft were off the charts. And he hasn't disappointed.
"The expectations for him as a guy were really high, I think he's exceeded all of them."
Smith is looking forward to his first work in pads, another step forward in his return to the field.
"Very confident, very confident in myself and everything that I've done thus far," he said Tuesday. "The strength staff, the rehab (staff) – associate athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation) Britt Brown, (head athletic trainer) Jim (Maurer) – we have a plan set in place. We won't deteriorate from it. It's just about working every day. Everything I've done, we've started off slow, we continue to progress and I've succeeded in everything thus far."