FRISCO, Texas – It's not a surprising development, but Jaylon Smith won't be making his Cowboys debut at any point in the first half of this season.
The Cowboys moved Smith to the reserve Non-Football Injury list on Tuesday as part of their move toward the NFL's 75-man roster limit. That decision makes Smith unavailable for the first six weeks of the regular season.
It seems unlikely the rookie linebacker will play a role at all in 2016. But after that six-week wait, the Cowboys will have a brief window where they can decide whether to work him into practice or shut him down for the year.
In the meantime, Smith has been continuing his regimen of strength and rehab work with the Cowboys' athletic training staff, and he can see the progress.
"Day by day, the feeling is getting so much better," he said. "I'm able to do a lot more. I'm actually running now, doing some actual football drills – linebacker drills and stuff like that."
Smith is a mainstay at practices, working off to the side with the athletic training staff. They're still just small steps in a long process, but he said that -- from footwork drills to working on resistance cords -- he's able to see a difference in what he can do.
"A lot more, which transfers to the field," he said. "And that's why I'm able to do the cords and do ladders and all these different types of things that you guys see that previously I wasn't able to do. We're moving forward."
Of course, the line of questioning will always go back to Smith's peroneal nerve. The 22-year-old said he's seeing positive developments, but it's not an issue with a specific timeline for return. All the Cowboys can do is continue to monitor the situation.
"I think, with my situation it's unique, because we don't have a timetable for when I'll be back," Smith said. "But just controlling what I can control, keeping a positive attitude is always first and foremost."
While he waits, Smith will continue working. He said he's back up to his playing weight of 245 pounds, and he's gained his strength back. Now, he wants to work on his power, and continue to ready himself for when he might be able to play again.
"Getting more explosive, my squats, the velocity in which I lift the heavy weight," he said. "Out on the field, doing a lot more lateral planting and getting myself into football mode and getting this nerve keep coming back."