FRISCO, Texas – One by one, Cowboys players and coaches walked the blue carpet for Thursday's inaugural Season Kickoff event presented by Blockchain.com at Ford Center – a celebration of the 2022 season that's only 17 days away.
Eight-time Pro Bowl Tyron Smith was not among them, having suffered a severe hamstring injury in Wednesday night's practice that is expected to require surgery and could sideline him deep into the regular season.
"Heartbroken for him," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "Just very unfortunate. A guy that's battled his whole career and battled little injuries here and there, and for something like that to happen, just unfortunate. It's just what this game brings you -- things that you can't control."
Smith reportedly is expected to undergo surgery Friday to repair the hamstring tear. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has expressed confidence that Smith will be able to play this season, though indications are that his recovery time will take multiple months of the regular season.
"I don't know and no one knows (the timeframe), but we should have him back by playoffs," Jones said.
In the meantime, the Cowboys must adjust without their long-time left tackle starter. They're light on experience behind Smith and starting right tackle Terence Steele. Backups Josh Ball and Matt Waletzko, both draft picks in the past two years, have yet to play a regular-season game.
In April, the Cowboys drafted Tyler Smith to be the left tackle of the future, but he has worked exclusively at left guard so far in training camp, competing with Connor McGovern for that job.
Could Tyler Smith move out to left tackle now? It's the position he played at Tulsa, and he got some reps there in OTAs before focusing on guard.
"We haven't made that decision," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's obviously fresh to us. I think the biggest thing is to see exactly what Tyron's situation is, and then it'll be part of the discussion."
Said Jones, "This will be a challenge, but I can give you a case where with Tyron coming (back) in the future, a chance to play these younger ones off the bat and right now could enhance things."
Prescott was in that exact situation seven years ago: a rookie asked to step in for longtime starter Tony Romo after Romo suffered a back injury in preseason.
Prescott seized that opportunity. Now someone else must do the same at left tackle, whether it's someone on the current roster or a player the Cowboys add from the outside.
"I'm confident in what we have and the guys that are going to continue to work to get better each and every day," Prescott said. "I believe in the front office. They'll make the right decision, whatever that takes. But for me it's about being a better leader, being there to support those guys and doing the best I can to make sure the next man up takes advantage of that opportunity."