OXNARD, Calif.– After nearly 18 months, Jaylon Smith finally got to hit somebody in full pads.
"It was a tight end," he said. "We were in a zone coverage and I had to come out and set the edge."
Wednesday's practice was the Cowboys' first work in full pads and the next progression in Smith's recovery from the devastating knee injury he suffered in his final college game. Last year's second-round pick missed his entire rookie season with nerve damage affecting his foot's mobility.
He participated in individual drills and eight plays of team drills, working at middle linebacker with the second unit.
"It was full pads, so there's a long of things that comes with it – the nitty-gritty and the real contact," he said. "It was something that I embraced today and was able to get after it.
"Being hurt has taught me so much. I learned patience. I learned how to really believe in my subconscious mind. It's helped tremendously. I've taken every day at once. I'm really excited."
This offseason, Smith practiced every other day in the non-contact OTA's and minicamp. He's now practiced three straight days in training camp and will likely be rested periodically. The Cowboys have one more practice Thursday before taking Friday off.
"To get in there with the pads on and start to move around, it was great to see that happen," executive vice president Stephen Jones said.
So what's the next step?
"The next step is the next day," Smith said. "Watch film tonight, get some ice on everything and clean up and get ready for the next day."
-- Rob Phillips
- The defensive line suffered two injury scares, though neither issue appears to be serious. Maliek Collins left practice and was evaluated in the medical tent at the midway point of the afternoon. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones later classified it as a hip flexor. "He had a little hip situation they were looking at. It was precautionary for the most part," Jones said.
- Charles Tapper also suffered from calf cramps during practice. The second-year defensive end fought through the discomfort to continue on in practice, but it was noticeably bothering him at times. Tapper said afterward that he'd be fine.
- Quarterback Zac Dysert went back to Dallas with a back injury that should keep him out of action for a while. In fact, the team is already looking at possible options to get another arm in training camp behind Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore and Cooper Rush.
- The first padded practice also saw extensive special teams drills. With the recent release of Lucky Whitehead, the Cowboys used rookie Ryan Switzer to field kickoffs as the primary returner, along with running back Rod Smith, who serves more as the lead blocker. Switzer only had two kickoff returns in college, totaling just 25 yards. He was one of the nation's most dangerous punt returners with seven career touchdowns.
- The Cowboys worked out three receivers this week after cutting Whitehead, but likely won't sign any from the trio of Marvin Bracy, Javontee Herndon and Corey Washington. Stephen Jones said, "We'll continue to look to see what's out there. If we find the right guy, we'll sign one. We'll continue to look."
- Stephen Jones said rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis will join the team on Thursday but he wasn't sure yet if the NFL would allow him to practice by Saturday or Sunday.
- Practice ended with a bit of tension, as Taco Charlton and Dan Skipper got into it after one of the final reps of the day. Cooler heads prevailed before things escalated, but the two players were clearly heated after an intense battle in the trenches.
Dak Prescott –The Cowboys' starter looked sharp in his first padded practice of the year. Prescott threw over the middle of the field early and often, connecting with Terrance Williams and Brice Butler on several slant routes. He also picked up big-time yardage on a quarterback keeper that faked out the entire defense. Prescott went 11-of-15 on the day, and one of those incompletions was a drop by Williams on what would have been a big play.
Alfred Morris –While he always seems like the forgotten guy, Morris was very active on Wednesday, catching the ball out of the backfield and hitting the hole with quickness. He got more reps because Darren McFadden took a veteran's day, but Morris took full advantage. Running backs look good in practice because they're not getting tackled but his ability to hit the hole and get up field was impressive.
Anthony Hitchens –Ezekiel Elliott got the better of Hitchens in the team's Compete Period, but the fourth-year linebacker had a solid practice other than that. Hitchens is the incumbent first-team middle linebacker, and he was flying all over the field making stops. Throughout the 11-on-11 and Team Run periods, Hitchens was around the ball making plays on the runner.
Play of the Day
Chidobe Awuzie flashed his potential in the very first 1-on-1 rep of his NFL career. With Dez Bryant taking a veteran's rest day, Awuzie matched up against Brice Butler. This particular route was a slant, which Awuzie expertly cut on to break up the pass. The rookie didn't stop there, though. After reaching over Butler to break up the pass, he managed to bat the loose ball into the air. As he fell to the ground, he managed to corral the ball for an interception.
Unofficial Injury Report:
Charles Tapper (calf)
Maliek Collins (hip)
QB Zac Dysert (back)
RB Jahad Thomas (hamstring)
LB Mark Nzeocha (knee)
LB Justin Durant (NFI)
DT Richard Ash (PUP)
RB Darren McFadden (rest day)
WR Dez Bryant (rest day)
TE Jason Witten (rest day)
DE Tyrone Crawford (rest day)
LB Sean Lee (rest day)
CB Orlando Scandrick (rest day)
DT Joey Ivie
CB Jourdan Lewis (not injury related)
Returned to Practice:
Thursday, July 27
10:45 a.m. (PDT) Practice