Once considered a likely first-round pick, Smith fell to the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft after suffering a major knee injury in Notre Dame‘s bowl game last January, then took a redshirt season as a rookie to allow the damaged nerves in his knee to regenerate.
It sounds like the Cowboys are very pleased with how Smith’s recovery is going.
“We feel so good about him, what he’s been able to accomplish. I think he’s getting better each day. We’re very optimistic about him and are penciling him in as a big-time contributor for our team,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said recently on 105.3 The Fan, according to SportsDayDFW.com.
“People haven’t really had a chance to understand what type of man this guy is as well. You can turn on his Notre Dame tape and see what an amazing player he was. In terms of his accomplishments on the field, he would have no question been a top-five pick.”
Jones admitted the Cowboys won’t know for sure what they have in Smith until they see him on the field. Nerve regeneration isn’t predictable, and Smith wouldn’t be the first player to never fully recover from an injury as severe as his.
“Well any time a guy is coming off an injury, it’s gonna be speculation. We think it’s gonna be good. Until we actually see it in action, you won’t know for sure,” Jones added. “What we’ve seen is plenty good. Our medical understanding is he’s only gonna get better and better, day by day, week by week, month by month.”
Smith has also expressed optimism about his future, even indicating he believes he could have played in the playoffs for the Cowboys this season had the NFL’s IR rules allowed him to be activated.
– With h/t to Rotoworld