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Cowboys News & Notes: Is Jaylon Smith On Track To Play This Year?

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Latest Cowboys headines: The Jaylon Smith Waiting Game officially begins; La'el Collins looking to be Cowboys' next big catch; Rico Gathers' feeling more comfortable after offseason program.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylon Smith on the toughest part of his injury and when he expects to be back on the field - $portsDay
Smith joined Mike & Mike in the Morning recently to talk about his rehab. Some highlights:

The toughest part of his injury:

Smith: It's different because with the nerve, it heals on it's own. So it's a matter of people can't give you a timeframe in which it will recover. It could come back tomorrow. It could take a year. It's a lot of gray area and uncertainty and in this day in age, our world does not like that. For me, I have all my faith in God and I'll be 100 percent again.

How he is in the healing process:

Smith: The expectation for me is to get healthy and be back as soon as possible, whether that's this year, next year, time will tell, but I'll never doubt myself.

The Jaylon Smith Waiting Game Begins - Devon Jeffries, Football Insiders
By signing Smith to a contract on Friday, the Cowboys officially begin the hopeful wait for his return.

After signing him to a rookie contract on Friday, the Cowboys now begin a high-stakes waiting game with Smith, hoping that he can make a comeback that few give him a chance to. When a medical re-check was done on injured players before the draft in April, Smith’s knee was deemed "structurally sound." But the peroneal nerve had yet to re-fire, complicating his recovery.

"I got a chance to work my butt off and at the re-check it was actually a huge day for me because I got to show how well I was doing and it was confirmed that my knee is not an issue at all, Smith said in an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike last week. "So that’s half of the equation, secured and knocked out. But for me now, it’s understanding the nerve and I’m in a great organization with the Dallas Cowboys and Dr. Dan Cooper did my surgery – he’s the team doctor here – so no one knows my injury more than the Cowboys and I’m just thankful to be here."

Jaylon Smith signs with Dallas Cowboys; now when will he play? - Todd Archer, ESPN
Second-round draft pick Jaylon Smith, who injured his knee on Jan. 1 in his final college game, still wants to play this season for Dallas, Archer writes.

Smith is likely to miss this season, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the team would not place him on injured reserve in hopes he could return by the end of the year. Smith has also stated he hopes to play this year.

During the recent rookie minicamp, he spent time watching linebacker drills and also did some resistance training with associate athletic trainer Britt Brown. When Smith does get on the field, it will be at middle linebacker. The Cowboys' starter the past two seasons, Rolando McClain, is on a one-year deal.

Jaylon Smith's journey to the Dallas Cowboys

Jaylon Smith works to recover from injury, out to prove he will dominate in NFL - Tom Pelissario, USA Today
This article is from a few days before the draft, but it contains audio of an interview in which Smith explains where he stands in his rehab.

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Letter to My Younger Self - Vernon Turner, The Players' Tribune
This is a heavy read, but one that you won't easily forget. Former NFL player Vernon Turner, who played for four teams from 1990-95, writes a gut-wrenching letter to his 15-year old self. If you open only one link today, make it this one. Make sure you read this.

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La'el Collins looking to be Dallas Cowboys' next big catch - Todd Archer, ESPN
The Cowboys hope La'el Collins can turn into one of those once-in-a-lifetime guards, and if his comfort level entering his second season is anything to go by, he coulfd be the Cowboys' next big catch.

"Really just the game slows down for you, especially after the first year of experience knowing what to expect, knowing how hard I have to work this offseason to get stronger, faster and to be better mentally," said Collins, who started 11 games as a rookie. "[You] play off just natural instinct and reaction where you're not even thinking out there. That's my biggest thing this year. That's what I'm focusing on."

Martin, the Cowboys' first-round pick in 2014 and a Pro Bowler in each of his first two seasons, sees a different Collins.

"He's been awesome this offseason," Martin said. "You can tell he's more comfortable. He has a great feeling for what's going on, really coming to work every day. So we're excited to see him coming along."

Rico Gathers' Comfort Level Continuing To Grow During Offseason Program - Nikki Chavanelle, Dallas Cowboys
Gathers looked good at minicamp two weeks ago, and has leaned on teammates to ease the transition from another sport and that particular football oddity: the playbook.

"I had my man Dak Prescott out there coaching me up and I really appreciate him and all of the other players believing in me," Gathers said. "If you asked them if I’m making the same mistakes I made yesterday they’d say no, so it’s about me dialing into the playbook and knowing my assignments."

The Cowboys staff hasn’t been giving Gathers any extra attention, but the tight end has no trouble seeking out help with understanding the playbook, which he says is going to be the only learning aspect he’ll really have to catch up on. It’s practice and being on the field that is the most familiar aspect of his new journey.

"I’m comfortable now," Gathers said. "I’m back into my own element. I’m just dialing in, focusing on what the coaches are telling us and I’m working hard. As long as I can work hard we’re good physically, I just have to be in the playbook mentally."

Twitter mailbag: How much pressure on Jason Garrett? - Todd Archer, ESPN
Even if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs, Archer thinks it’s hard to see the Cowboys not bringing Garrett back for the 2017 season. So how many wins will it take for Garrett to keep his job?

I don't think there is a set number. I'm not even sure he needs to make it to the playoffs. But I chose this question for another reason: After a 12-4 finish in 2014, Garrett has not received any benefit of the doubt for what happened in 2015. It's probably a byproduct of three straight 8-8 finishes from 2011-13. Garrett entered 2014 without a contract for the following season and helped direct the Cowboys to an NFC East title. The arrow on everything was pointing up. And then 2015 happened and now the arrow teeters between even and down. That's just how it is in the NFL.

Jerry Jones has been patient with Garrett and short of a complete meltdown like the Cowboys had under Wade Phillips in 2010, it's hard to see Garrett not back in 2017 as we sit here today. Is there pressure? Of course. Is it as much as the pressure facing Jeff Fisher, Rex Ryan and some others? Nobody really knows.

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Ezekiel Elliott's mid-riff style violates NFL rules - Kevin Seifert, ESPN
Ezekiel Elliott's famous mid-riff look is going to become a thing of the past. The running back's style apparently does not conform with NFL rules.

Former top-5 pick Reggie Bush has some advice for Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott - $portsDay
Reggie Bush had some advice for Elliott on the Rich Eisen Show, and in a roundabout way perhaps provides some insight into why he never lived up to his draft pedigree.

For one, on the football field, be patient. I think for me I remember coming out as a rookie, patience was something that I had to learn. Patience as a runner, patience with your eyes, because in college you could outrun guys. Or you could get away with a lot of things at the college level that at the pro level you can't. Guys are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter. Defensive coordinators are smarter. Maybe not smarter, but it's just a different level. And the mental side of football at the professional level is a lot harder, it's a lot tougher.

Ezekiel Elliott wears full Cowboys uniform for first time, goes full crop-top - John Breech, CBSSports.com
The rookie was in Los Angeles on Saturday for the NFLPA rookie premiere, where he once again showed off his favorite look. For good measure, he also added a hashtag #InCropTopWeTrust.

Five BIG reasons Ezekiel Elliott could have record-breaking rookie season - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Spoiler alert: the five reasons are Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free.

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San Francisco 49ers: Officially the worst-drafting team in the NFL since 2011 - Nick Bradley, Niners Nation
This post looks at Carreer Approximate Value for the draft lasses since 2011, and comnpares that to Residual AV (value above what is expected based on the pick number) for each draft class.

As the title indicates, the 49ers rank dead last over the period, while the Eagles and Giants also find themselves in the bottom seven. The top seven?

1. Seattle
2. Houston
3. Oakland
4. Carolina
5. Dallas
6. Washington
7. Atlanta

Mike Shanahan wants you to know that the RGIII trade wasn’t Mike Shanahan’s fault - Dan Steinberg, The Washington Post
Will Mike Shanahan ever take responsibility for the Robert Griffin III fiasco? Nope! Instead, he engages in Soviet-era revisionism and suddenly claims he never wanted to trade up for Robert Griffin III in the 2012 NFL draft - which prompted The Washington Post to collect a dozen instances in 2012 and 2013 that Shanahan said the trade was a great move for the future of the franchise.