The Dallas Cowboys pulled off the most shocking move of the offseason when they signed Aldon Smith in April to a one-year deal. The only roadblock left would be getting the former All-Pro reinstated. On Wednesday, Smith got his wish when he was conditionally reinstated by the NFL, allowing him to participate in the Cowboys virtual offseason program beginning next week.
Smith has been on an odyssey to get his life back in order since 2015. After a hit-and-run incident that year that got him a one-year suspension, Smith applied for reinstatement in October of 2016. Unfortunately, no reinstatement happened and he would miss the entire 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2018, he was released by the then Oakland Raiders after an alleged domestic violence incident.
So as you can see, the odds of Smith going downhill even further were high, but he pulled himself up by the bootstraps and got his life going in a positive direction. A week after signing with the Cowboys, Smith sat down with Jay Glazer of FOX Sports and talked about his journey.
“It's been a whole lot of soul searching. It's been a journey filled with ups and downs,” Smith said. “And during the process, during the journey, there's been some self-inflicting wounds. But in the process, I came out with a better understanding of who I am and what I want for my life. It gave me a greater appreciation for the game I'm blessed to play.”
In addition to getting back to the field, Smith wants to use his experience to help others who might be dealing with similar demons.
“I believe that with the platform the NFL gives players and particularly me with the things that I've gone through and things I've learned, it would give me a chance to help out others.”
Now reinstated, Smith has his opportunity to do just that, and he also is being reunited with an old friend. Jim Tomsula, who coached Smith for four years with the San Francisco 49ers, was hired as the Cowboys new defensive line coach in January. Smith having that familiarity with a coach, especially one that helped guide him to 33.5 sacks in his first two years, will be another brick to a solid foundation for him going forward.
Smith will a part of a rotation with rookie Bradlee Anae and the hopefully soon-to-be reinstated Randy Gregory coming off the right edge opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. What the Cowboys are hoping for is this combination can replace the 11.5 sacks Robert Quinn provided in 2019.
After getting the news that he was reinstated, Smith told TMZ that he's in a much better place now and is looking forward to this new opportunity.
“I'm an overall better person,” Smith said. “I got 20 sacks — or 19.5, I say 20 because it was 20 — but, I was able to play at a high level with a lot of other things going on in my life. With how life is for me now, I'm just looking forward to seeing what I can do. My goal is to pick up where I left off. That just means I always work hard. I always play hard. I want the same thing out of my teammates and I'm sure those guys in the locker room feel the same way, and with that mentality, the sky is the limit. I think as long as we do what we need to do and everybody plays to their potential anything's possible.”
The most important thing here is that Smith has gotten his life in order, that means more than football. However, on top of turning his life around, he has a chance to resume his career at 30 years of age (31 in September). With the right structure in place Smith has a great chance to be one of the best redemption stories we've seen in sports.