OXNARD, CA (KLTV) - To help avoid injury, and ease the players into training camp, Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett has the team practice in just helmets the first two days. That period is now over, and on Wednesday morning, the Cowboys went through their first full padded practice.
For Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, this day is more meaningful because the 22 year old hasn't been in full uniform in 18 months.
The 2016 second-round pick is still working his way back from a gruesome knee injury. But as Dez Bryant explains, despite not playing a single down in the NFL, Smith has his teammates' respect.
"He looks like a dang action figure out here. The guys phenomenal man, it's good to see him in action," said wide-receiver Bryant.
"He's got the size and the movement, so that's a great starting point," said Rod Marinelli, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator.
All joking aside, Smith wasn't able to play last year after tearing the ACL and MCL in his knee during Notre Dame's bowl game to end the 2015 season.
The Butkus Award winner also suffered nerve damage and spent his entire rookie campaign rehabbing. Constantly dealing with questions on when he'll be able to contribute, Smith has remained focused and persevered through all the obstacles.
"Jaylon had an outstanding off season. He has made strides, he really handled all the work we asked him to handle. He went over every hurdle he needed to go over. He's in a really good position starting training camp," said Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys Head Coach. "He had a very serious injury but we bet on him."
"He's just like looking at number one draft pick out here, coming out on the field for the first time. We all know his circumstances, what he needs to overcome," said Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner.
"It's definitely a challenge and tested me mentally, but here I am now. It was a matter of understanding the season I was in and being patient. Everything I do is with a clear eye view. It's a focused vision, and a determined belief, and a earned dream. So it's something that I live by and walk with every single day. I'm very confident in myself and everything I've ever done thus far. I'm really just happy," said Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys linebacker.