OXNARD, Calif.– The Cowboys will put the pads on Monday afternoon for the first time in training camp.
While they practice, rookie Jaylon Smith continues his rehab from the serious knee injury he suffered in his final college bowl game on New Year's Day.
What will be his emotions watching his new teammates?
"I'm going to be excited," he said. "I'm looking forward to the defense getting out there and doing some great things vs. a really good offense."
Smith keeps a smile on his face, focusing on positives from the gradual progress he's made in his rehab with the Cowboys' athletic training staff.
The Cowboys drafted Smith in the second round knowing he could very well spend his entire rookie season on the sidelines. Not only did he suffer peroneal nerve damage – the nerve must regenerate on its own with time – he's also only eight months removed from an ACL tear.
The Cowboys' team physician, Dr. Dan Cooper, performed Smith's knee surgery in January. Smith said he has progressed to some lateral movements and some vertical running but reiterated there's no timetable for a return.
"He's doing a great job with his rehab. He's made strides," head coach Jason Garrett said. "The other part with that is than when he's not directly engaged with the team he has to keep himself engaged, in meetings, when he's involved in a walkthrough setting, to be able to watch that and see what's going on and learn as much football as he can from the position that he's in. Line 1 for him is to get healthy. He's working very hard at that."
Smith is staying positive, no matter how much he wants to be on the field.
"It's a lot of adversity," he said. "But for me everything I do I have a clear-eye view, which is a focused vision and a determined belief in earned dreams. That's just something I've been living by.
"I have all my trust in the physicians, the trainers. They're taking care of me."
Check out some of our favorite photos from day 3 of training camp in Oxnard, California.