Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith, who's recovering from a knee injury that included nerve damage, has not played for the team since Dallas selected him in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft.
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Smith Will Not Return to Action in 2016 Season
Thursday, Nov. 24
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Smith won't practice or play this season despite being activated off the non-football injury list. A source revealed to Rapoport that "Smith is still waiting for his nerve to 'fire'" in his knee, adding that there's no certainty about when that will happen.
"That can be an unpredictable thing," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on his radio show on KRLD-FM this week, per Rapoport. "We're very pleased with where he is right now with his strength and all the other things. We're just hoping to see it continue to improve. But nobody knows, no medical people, know when that might occur."
Smith always represented a risk for the Cowboys. The Butkus Award winner possessed top-10 potential before suffering a major knee injury during the Fiesta Bowl with Notre Dame.
The defensive playmaker suffered ACL and MCL tears along with nerve damage, which caused his draft stock to fall considerably. Jones said that uncertainty with the "rejuvenation of the nerve" made the recovery progress tough to gauge, per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
Smith's chances of making an impact during his first year in the league were always slim. In turn, this doesn't change much in terms of the team's plans within the linebacker group, which Sean Lee will continue to anchor.
The outlook for Smith remains unclear. He racked up 226 total tackles over his final two seasons with the Fighting Irish, so it's hard to blame Dallas for taking a chance on him. But it's difficult to project what type of long-term value he might hold until he can get back and stay healthy.