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Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith expects to be ‘better than Notre Dame 100 percent’

Jaylon Smith, Cowboys

Following a year-long recovery process from a devastating knee injury in his final collegiate game, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made his return to the field for the 2017 campaign.

However, there was a notable dip in his performance on the field that has caused some concern about whether he can return to playing like the promising talent he was at Notre Dame prior to the leg in injury. According to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News, Smith has voiced that he believes he can not only recapture that form by work past it.

“From the start, people thought I’d never be able to play the game again,” Smith said. “I’ve been able to accomplish that and each and every day I’ve gotten better. Last year, each game I improved.

“I’m getting there. I’m going to be better than Notre Dame 100 percent. My overall knowledge of the game has improved each and every day, and [I’m physically] going to improve as well.”

In his first NFL season, Smith was able to take the field for all 16 games where he notched 82 tackles but had some noticeable limitations in his ability on the field due to the injury. All of last year, he had to wear a brace around his left ankle and foot that was needed to help his mobility in that area after he had severely damaged the peroneal nerve in his leg in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State on New Year’s Day in 2016.

Smith is still working his way back from that major injury that had originally left him unable to lift his left foot toward his shin. It’s a motion that he partially has at this point in time. With another offseason to work on the strength and flexibility of his left leg and foot, it should see him take another stride forward in his physical ability on the field in 2018.

 Prior to his knee injury, the former second-round pick of the 2016 NFL Draft was viewed as one of the most talented defensive players at the collegiate level. He had earned a pair of First-Team All-Independent selection, a Consensus All-American nod, and won the 2015 Dick Butkus Award, which is given to the top linebacker in the nation.