There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Dallas Cowboys second year linebacker Jaylon Smith heading into the 2017 season. It's understandable considering the lengthy rehab he has had to go through and the expectations a lot of fans have for him this season. But, I thought it was time to put one of those misunderstandings to rest for good.
It's no secret Jaylon Smith has had to go through a lengthy and difficult rehab to recover from his ACL/MCL injury he sustained in his last collegiate game. But, just about everybody has been focused on his nerve regeneration in his knee, and rightfully so.
NFL players recover from ACL/MCL injuries all the time, but it's a rarity a player has to recover from a nerve injury that pretty much left his limb paralyzed. That's exactly what Jaylon Smith has had to do and his progress is encouraging.
Jaylon Smith's nerve regeneration in his knee has progressed to the point where a lot of fans are hoping that he can be a big contributor on defense in 2017. In order to do that though he has to wear a brace on his left leg in order to help with his “drop foot”, but it's not the brace many have been reporting.
There has been a misunderstanding that Smith will have to wear an AFO (ankle/foot orthoses) on his left leg in order to get on the field, but that simply isn't factual. Smith will have to wear a brace, but it is a custom-made Richie Brace.
The Richie Brace isn't uncommon in the NFL. It is plastic, bendable, with hinged sides, much like an air-cast used for high ankle sprains. This type of brace will allow him to have much more natural movement than the AFO would.
Cowboys' associate athletic trainer and director of rehabilitation Britt Brown explains further.
“I've heard some doctors and trainers, who haven't ever seen Jaylon, say that there's no way he could play in the NFL with an AFO brace, and their right,” he said. “With the brace he is wearing, Jaylon can take his natural linebacker stance and come off the ball the same way he would without the brace.”
Britt Brown would know better than most where Smith is in the recovery process. He has worked daily side-by-side with Smith throughout the recuperation process and is responsible for getting him to the point where you can contribute not only this year, but for years to come.
The Richie Brace sounds like the perfect solution to help Smith get back on the field and to what he does best. The Cowboys defense can certainly use his talents, but it might be wise to temper expectations just a little bit considering he's been out of the game for over a year.
Training camp for Jaylon Smith will be just the next steppingstone to his recovery process, but you can bet he will be doing everything within his powers to get back on the field.
I for one can't wait to see what he is able to accomplish, but being a realist I know he still has several hurdles he has to overcome first.