Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith missed his entire rookie season with a serious knee injury, but Smith offered a message to the league on Saturday.
“The message is: Jaylon’s gonna ball this year,” Smith told USA Today at the NFL Combine.
At the 2016 combine, Smith couldn’t lift his foot or swing it to the side because the peroneal nerve had been damaged when he sustained a knee injury while playing in his last game for Notre Dame against Ohio State. He was projected as a first-round pick, but he slipped into the second round after doctors discovered the nerve damage.
The nerve still isn’t completely healed, but Smith is planning to play with a special brace that will help him play with the nerve damage.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he expects Smith to be able to play with the brace.
“I’ve been advised by all of our medical staff – the same people that advised us when we drafted him – he can play the way that he’s conditioning,” Jones said. “Play right now. We are optimistic, as well as factually know, and we’re optimistic that his feeling and nerves are improving.”
Jones said he still thinks Smith will be an impact player, though he isn’t sure if Smith will reach his full potential.
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “I don’t know what his full potential is. We’ll never know, even if he doesn’t play with a brace, if he’s playing to his full potential from having had the injury. On the other hand, I think he has a chance of being that impact player that you expected.”
Smith had 284 tackles in three seasons at Notre Dame from 2013-15.
(h/t USA Today)