A devastating injury to Terence Steele could've crippled the right side of the Cowboys offensive line, if not for Tyron Smith's willingness and ability to do what many couldn't possibly achieve
Imagine you were raised to drive your vehicle with the steering wheel on the left side of the car but, in an emergency situation, you're suddenly tasked with maneuvering a vehicle that has the steering wheel on the right side — without ending up in a ditch. Figuratively speaking, Tyron Smith did just that for the Dallas Cowboys in Jacksonville, and without violating a single traffic law.
Better still was the fact he looked as if he'd been driving on that side of the road for his entire NFL career, when the truth is he hasn't been in that seat since his rookie season in 2011.
But when Terence Steele went down with a season-ending torn ACL, just days before Smith was set to make his 2022 debut after tearing the hamstring off of the back of his knee in training camp, Smith didn't bat an eye when approached with the scenario.
"We all talked [about it] immediately after Terence went down to see what was the best-case scenario for the team," Smith explained on Thursday. "I said, 'Anything that'll help the team win, I'm all about [winning], so leave Tyler where he is. He's comfortable over there and he's been playing decent ball all year.'
"It's what was best for the team."
Again, this is a player who suffered a devastating injury that, for many, would've been season-ending and immediately upon his return was asked to drive on the other side of the road, and at the same level, physically, exponentially increasing the degree of difficulty.
And yet, for Smith, it wasn't really a big deal — aided by his fellow future Hall of Famer, right guard Zack Martin.
"When I got back, it was like I never left," said Smith, who did admit it's still a work-in-progress as the Cowboys prepare to host the Philadelphia Eagles and begin refining/repairing items of need going into the postseason. "It was a little weird going to the right side, [but] It's fun to play next to my guy Zack. … It was definitely a little challenging, but I had Zack there to talk me through it. We worked through it — did a little bit of some extra work.
"I know the playbook so it's just more of switching sides and getting comfortable with it. I'm still working through the kinks of it, but I'm getting more comfortable everyday."
The Week 15 outing against the Jaguars marked the first time in the stellar careers of Martin and Smith in which they lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, but it obviously won't be the last (as stated above). In order to ramp Smith up for his return, however, he was often spelled by a third future Hall of Famer, Jason Peters, as the game wore on.
Peters, who was a hero for the Cowboys in going to right tackle on the eventual game-winning 98-yard drive a week prior against the Houston Texans, didn't fair poorly against the Jaguars, but it was clear Dallas would benefit more from having Smith in the role for 100% of the reps to maintain rhythm across the line and with quarterback Dak Prescott.
Smith and Martin will continue to put in whatever added work is needed between games, while adjusting technique in-game as well, to make sure Prescott remains clean and both Ezekiel Elliott and newly-honored Pro Bowler Tony Pollard have gaping holes to attack on the right side of the offensive line.
"The combination feels strong whenever we're together," said Smith.
Based upon how dominant he looked on Sunday, he's absolutely correct.