FRISCO, Texas – It hardly qualifies as a surprise that, in the surreal age of social media, Jaylon Smith started and ended a firestorm – all on his own.
To set the scene a bit, Smith – who is on the Non-Football Injury list while he recovers from the severe knee injury he suffered during his final college game – prompted intense speculation from fans and media Monday with a seemingly benign tweet.
Smith was surprised Tuesday when a huddle of reporters met him at his locker to ask if the message had any underlying meaning – which, according to him, it did not.
"Just because I'm thanking the Lord, that doesn't necessarily have to mean that it's dealing with my injury – it's just giving thanks to him for life, being in this unique situation," Smith said.
It was a stretch to assume that the Cowboys would deliver major injury news about such an intriguing player via Twitter – but fans' curiosity is understandable. After all, Smith was talented enough to be drafted No. 34 overall despite a debilitating injury. He likely would have been a top 10 pick if he'd been fully healthy.
On top of that, Smith has worked his way back into impressive physical condition – meaning that, theoretically, the only thing stopping him from contributing on the field is the regeneration of his oft-discussed peroneal nerve.
Smith said there has been progress on his regimen, as he can run, sprint and work on linebacker drills. The rookie typically works with the athletic training staff apart from the rest of the team during practice.
[embeddedad0]He still wears a brace to stabilize his foot, but he said his progress has been encouraging.
"If you see me running, it would be hard to tell what's really wrong with me, just based on the progression that's happened thus far," he said. "I'm so astounded with the process, all the training staff trusting me, and me putting my trust in them. We're getting results."
True to his optimistic nature, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones emphasized that encouragement on Tuesday morning. Asked about it on 105.3 FM The Fan, Jones said he wouldn't rule out Smith's ability to contribute this season – and Smith echoed that attitude.
"I'll never rule myself out. For me it's just grinding each and every day, like I've always said, and controlling what I can control," he said. "You guys can't see how well I'm doing or exactly what I'm doing. But it's just a great feeling getting out there working and running in this process."
All of that said, it might be wise not to read too much into the meaning of any tweets – though Smith did say he's not put off by anybody's interest in his progress.
"I think there's beauty in the struggle," he said. "I think people following along with my injury, my process – I feel comfortable not being alone and sharing it with fans or anyone who's curious."