Smith (knee) is expected to be ready to join the Cowboys when their offseason workouts begin in April, Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com reports. "We anticipate him being in the offseason program and really doing everything from the outset, but we'll have to watch him as we go just like we would with anybody coming back from an injury," head coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday.
The linebacker didn't play a snap as a rookie as he attempts to recover from nerve damage in his knee, but he's been posting a series of very impressive videos on social media showing him doing various drills without any apparent issues, creating some excitement regarding his role in 2017. Smith is still wearing a brace to support his lower leg and foot, however, and there's no guarantee the nerve will regenerate enough to allow him to play without it. How effective he might be in a game situation while wearing it remains to be seen.
Smith is expected to be ready in time for OTAs in May and the fact he continues to up his involvement in offseason workouts only affirms that notion. However, he requires a leg brace to help lift up his foot while the nerves in his injured knee regenerate. It isn't clear how long he'll need to wear the brace, but if push comes to shove, Smith will still be able to play even if he fails to shed the appendage. The only question is whether it will limit his effectiveness.
The 2016 second-round pick -- who indicated that he feels "great" at this stage -- is still wearing a brace to support his foot and lower leg due to the nerve damage and says he thinks he'll be able to play while wearing it. The fact that he's already able to post a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash backs up that level of optimism, but if he fully recovers, he'll be able to shed the brace completely. Smith likely would have been a top five pick in his draft class were it not for the injury, so if he does make a full recovery, the Cowboys could be adding an impact player to the heart of their defense in 2017.
Smith (knee) is expected to be a key factor for the Cowboys' defense in 2017, Jon Machota of Dallas News reports.
According to Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, Smith is slated to be a contributor next season upon full recovery from a knee issue that landed him on IR earlier this week. The 2016 second-round pick continues to rehab in hopes of nerve regeneration.
It was always an extreme long shot that the nerve in Smith's knee would regenerate quickly enough to allow him to get on the field in 2016, but even that small chance has now been snuffed out. There's no guarantee that the second-round pick will ever even play in the NFL, but Smith will have the entire offseason to continue his rehab and hope he can regain full functionality in his surgically repaired knee.