FRISCO, Texas – Reports from Cowboys brass on linebacker Jaylon Smith's knee injury recovery were all positive last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Head coach Jason Garrett said Smith should be able to participate fully when the team's offseason program gets underway in April. Executive vice president Stephen Jones believes "the sky's the limit" for their 2016 second-round pick who did not play as a rookie.
And team owner/general manager Jerry Jones remains confident Smith can be an "impact player" on defense.
The Cowboys' medical staff has advised Jones that Smith can play the brace that has assisted him with the nerve damage that came with the knee injury. Smith spent the 2016 season recovering from a torn ACL, but there's no timetable relative to the nerve – it must regenerate on its own.
"We factually know and are optimistic about more that his feeling and nerves are improving," Jones said. "We know that."
Smith might have been a top-five selection in last year's draft if not for the injury he suffered in his final college game on Jan. 1, 2016. Instead, the Cowboys grabbed him near the top of the second round (No. 34 overall) – and Jones believes Smith still can deliver first-round type of production in his NFL career.
"Everything that he's about in terms of his competitiveness, in terms of what you want – his makeup, you could call it – is off the charts," Jones said. "We have every reason to think that he's going to come in here and be an impact player.
"I don't know (his ceiling) because I don't know what his full potential is. But we'll never know, even if he doesn't play with the brace if he's playing to his full potential from having had the injury. You never know that. On the other hand, I think he's got a chance to be that kind of impact player that you would have expected with a first-round pick.
"Not one thing that I've seen or heard or anybody said, that if he were sitting there this year that we wouldn't have run to use our first pick on him, at his health condition right now."