OXNARD, Calif. – After nearly 18 months, Jaylon Smith finally got to hit somebody in full pads.
“It was a tight end,” he said. “We were in a zone coverage and I had to come out and set the edge.”

Wednesday’s practice was the Cowboys’ first work in full pads and the next progression in Smith’s recovery from the devastating knee injury he suffered in his final college game. Last year’s second-round pick missed his entire rookie season with nerve damage affecting his foot’s mobility.

He participated in individual drills and eight plays of team drills, working at middle linebacker with the second unit.
“It was full pads, so there’s a long of things that comes with it – the nitty-gritty and the real contact,” he said. “It was something that I embraced today and was able to get after it.

“Being hurt has taught me so much. I learned patience. I learned how to really believe in my subconscious mind. It’s helped tremendously. I’ve taken every day at once. I’m really excited.”

This offseason, Smith practiced every other day in the non-contact OTA’s and minicamp. He’s now practiced three straight days in training camp and will likely be rested periodically. The Cowboys have one more practice Thursday before taking Friday off.

“To get in there with the pads on and start to move around, it was great to see that happen,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

So what’s the next step?

“The next step is the next day,” Smith said. “Watch film tonight, get some ice on everything and clean up and get ready for the next day.”