Jaylon Smith will take the field for the Cowboys on Monday when they open up their training camp in Oxnard, California.
How much the linebacker does and how much he practices after that, however, are still up in the air.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett spent a large portion of their camp-opening press conference Sunday praising the work Smith has done to come back from a devastating knee injury that he suffered in the final game of his Notre Dame career. But they both reiterated they will use caution with their 2016 second-round pick.
“The biggest thing for us is we’re going to take it day by day,” Garrett said. “He’s made great progress because his approach, it’s a laser-like focus on what he needs to do each day. The strides he’s made has been fantastic. And one of the reasons we as an organization took a risk on Jaylon is because of the kind of young man he is. He had a very serious injury but we bet on him because of the kind of guy he is and he hasn’t disappointed.
“He’s been so much better than any of our expectations could have imagined about how to handle this. His demeanor, his work ethic, all of that. So rather than saying he’s going to come back here, he’s going to do this then, all that stuff is arbitrary. Keep doing what you’re doing each and every day. Get better and better and better. He’s going to come out to practice [Monday] and we’ll see how he does. We anticipate him doing well. If it follows with what he did in the spring, we’ll make our decisions going forward.”
Smith’s knee and the question of whether or not his nerve is regenerating have accounted for endless headlines since he was drafted by the Cowboys. Some, including Jones himself, wondered if the knee would ever get healthy enough to where Smith could be an effective NFL player.
On Sunday, Jones said he couldn’t be happier with the recovery process and the gamble he took on the player he said the Cowboys had “No. 1 on our draft board” last year and “would have been at the top of the board this year” as well.
“It looks really good,” said Jones, who added the nerve is “certainly” regenerating. “All testing, all feeling, really looks as good as I could have hoped that it would look at the time. We’ll see.”
Even if Smith is limited this camp, as is expected, Jones said that won’t matter much to him. After all, the owner watched Ezekiel Elliott miss most of training camp last summer with a hamstring injury and then watched him run wild on NFL defenses all season.
“Of course we know how limited Zeke was at training camp last year,” Jones said. “So, so much for that in terms of how impactful that might be.”
Jones, Garrett and executive vice president Stephen Jones touched on a few other Cowboys topics at their news conference:
? The Cowboys appear to be more of a “when” rather than an “if” when it comes to getting a long-term deal done with star offensive lineman Zack Martin.
“We’d love to get Zack Martin done,” Stephen Jones said. “We’ve made that real clear and we’ll be going to work on him. I think he’s an important part of our future. He represents everything we want our players to be about. He’s not only a great player on the field, he’s a great person off the field. We’ll be hard at it trying to do it.
“It’s important — it’s going to be a big number as we all know and it has to be right in terms for not only us but for him. I feel confident we’ll get something worked out. I wouldn’t say anything is pushing this one way or the other in terms of the urgency. … As far as I’m concerned, he’s going to be here for a long time and we’ll work that out with him.”
? The Cowboys will open up training camp without quarterback Tony Romo on the roster for the first time since 2002. For Jerry Jones, Dak Prescott’s emergence has him feeling a lot better about not seeing No. 9 under center this summer.
“I’m very surprised I can answer your question with an element of surprise that I am a lot more comfortable than I ever thought I would be at this time last year or beyond not having Romo,” Jerry Jones said. “That has everything to do with the year that Dak had. And more importantly the way that Dak is approaching — and approached throughout last year — but approaching this year. So it’s a really good feeling. I’m excited about the fans’ excitement about Dak. So all of that makes this a lot more palatable, and a lot more comfortable than I thought I would ever be with not having Romo in this short of time span not on the team.”
? Jerry Jones told reporters that after reviewing everything with regard to the NFL’s investigation into Elliott, “there is absolutely nothing, not one thing that I’ve seen that has anything to do with domestic violence.”