Jaylon Smith opens up about his future with the Cowboys, the long-term outlook on his surgically-repaired knee

It appears there's nothing to fear when it comes to recent news of an injury to Jaylon Smith.

The 24-year-old sat out of practice recently with what the Dallas Cowboys described as soreness in his knee following the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, and immediately some began to think the worst. Considering the offending knee is also the one that nearly ended his football career in 2016, it's fair to have some anxiety when hearing the word "knee" and "Jaylon Smith" in the same sentence, but neither the team nor Smith himself are worried about any type of lingering issues.

"I'm great," Smith said, via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. "They wanted to give me a little time off to be able to rest and heal up."

He returned to practice on Tuesday, with no further issues being reported.

That's good news for the Cowboys, considering Smith is hot off of a breakout season wherein he had the second-highest tackle tally on the team (121 combined with 82 solo), along with four pass deflections, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and his four sacks were good enough for fourth-best -- behind only DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Tyrone Crawford. His stellar year landed nearly landed him an outright Pro Bowl nod, and although he narrowly missed, even that was an achievement for a player who was told three short years ago he'd never suit up at the NFL level.

Eclipsed only by fellow Cowboys' phenom Leighton Vander Esch, Smith was outright dominant for the club in 2018, and it's no surprise a source confirmed to me earlier this summer that the team had approached him to begin preliminary contract talks. Granted, Smith will be a restricted free agent when 2020 rolls around -- by virtue of his redshirt rookie season -- but don't be surprised if both sides are ready to marry for the longterm. Owner Jerry Jones also recently hinted at a possible extension that might come out of left field, and has nothing to do with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper or Ezekiel Elliott.

The front office couldn't be any clearer about their future intent on Smith, meaning it could be him getting the nod. That would be just fine with the former 34th-overall pick, who remains enamored with the team that gave him a chance in the 2016 NFL Draft.

"For me, it's about grinding," he said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. "It's about grinding to better myself and better my team to be able to win games and win a Super Bowl. Jerry [Jones] wants a Super Bowl. We got to work to that. 

"...I want to be a Cowboy. I want to be a Cowboy for the rest of my life. Understanding what they've done for me -- taking a chance, taking a risk. Now they're getting the return on their investment. 

"It's a beautiful thing to be a Dallas Cowboy."

Smith also says don't bet on him taking a step back in 2019.

"This is just the beginning," he proclaimed. "I'm never satisfied. Everyone is dealt their own hand, it's about how you respond. For me, the knee is great."

It's to-be-determined if Smith will take the field for a series of two in the second preseason game, where the team will head to Honolulu to face the Los Angeles Rams, but at least he and the Cowboys know he's just fine, in both health and focus.

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