It’s a remarkable run of consistency for Tyron Smith. Over the last three years, he has missed exactly three games each season. Previous to that, in his first five years in the league, he had missed only one game. So Smith’s health is always a topic during recent offseasons considering the wide range of injury issues he’s had including back, neck, and knee problems. The back issue after the 2017 season was particularly concerning because it looked to be chronic, and it was affecting his ability to play up to his All-Pro level when he was on the field. At the time, there were whispers that Smith may need surgery and that the Cowboys may have to look at a new left tackle sometime in the near future.
Fortunately, Smith worked on that issues last offseason and we reported this in April of 2018:
“I’m feeling great now,” Smith said. “Actually, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a while. I’ve taken this offseason to get back into it a little early and try to take care of my body a little more. I’m just doing the little small (rehab) things and I just feel awesome right now.”
“My back is really restricted me a lot,” said Smith, who was still named to the Pro Bowl in 2017, for the fifth straight year. “But it’s feeling really good right now. We did some MRIs and it never was to the point where I needed surgery. I wanted to stay away from surgery. So I’m happy where we are right now.”
In 2017, Smith’s absence wrecked the Cowboys and seemed to had a prolonged effect on Dak Prescott. The Chaz Green experiment in Atlanta of that year was a total disaster, and Prescott never looked right the rest of that year and the early part of 2018. He did start to come around early in the schedule of 2018 and finished strong. But the absence of Smith was a worrying one.
In 2018, Smith missed his usual three games, this time for a neck problem, but the results were different. With Cameron Fleming available, the team kept on chugging along. Fleming is still here as the backup tackle and recent history has shown that the team will need him.
For his part, Smith thinks he’s doing great and believes he can be even better this year.
“Every year you always have little nicks here and there, but it feels good coming into this year with no injuries,” Smith said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “I’m coming back faster and stronger.”
Faster and stronger would be good, and the fact that his back didn’t keep him out in 2018 is a good sign. Last season was a little bit of a bounce-back year for Smith; Pro Football Focus had him down for only 15 pressures, 13 hurries and no sacks, although he did pick up seven holding penalties.
Smith is signed through the 2023 season and is only 29 years old. Even though it seems like he’s been in the league for forever, as far as offensive linemen go he should have a lot of tread left on the tires. Considering that his deal is team-friendly his presence at one of the most important positions on the field is extremely beneficial with the Cowboys having to stretch their salary cap dollars to extend some of their other stars. If things did go badly for Smith, the Cowboys have an easy out in his contract after the 2020 season.
For now, though, the big man on the left side showed a return to form in 2018. As long as his back isn’t the issue, the team can breathe a little easier. As long as they have a viable swing tackle, they can survive Smith’s regular three game absences.
Maybe this year that can change and he’ll go all 16 games (plus the playoffs), and he’ll be faster and stronger, as he says.