Many other players stuck in a similar situation — a long-time if consistent veteran starter suddenly being phased out of the team’s plans — would not exhibit the professionalism nor wherewithal of Jaylon Smith.
Say this for the backburnered Dallas Cowboys linebacker: All class.
“A different experience, but for me, I’ve been through so much. I’m locked in,” Smith told reporters Thursday, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “Whenever my name is called, I’m going to be here to ball, and that’s just my mentality. Whatever it takes for this team to win.”
“Coaches have game plans. It’s my job to be ready. So I’m ready. I’ve been ready,” he added, per The Athletic’s Jon Machota. “That’s all I can do, just continue to work on my craft and be the best player I can be, a dominant player.”
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Smith Was A Ghost in Week 1
If you blinked last Thursday night, you probably missed No. 9, who finished the season-opening loss to Tampa Bay with four tackles (two solo) across 16 snaps — Smith’s fewest since his 2017 rookie campaign.
What’s more, his years-long partner-in-crime, Leighton Vander Esch, logged just 14 snaps. Both linebackers transparently are being phased out under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who’s hand-perched first-round rookie Micah Parsons (51 snaps) and free-agent addition Keanu Neal (50) atop the totem pole. Quinn, though, insists that reps for Smith and Vander Esch will vary by opponent.
“I would say this is early,” he said Monday, “and we’re certainly expecting those guys to play a lot. Some games, they’ll play a ton. Some games, it will be more balanced. I feel like we’ve got four excellent linebackers. … I’d expect games to be different as the season goes on.”
“I thought both of them played strong and well in their reps. … Both of them are equally equipped to handle all of the stuff,” Quinn said. “I would expect that to move around as the season progresses.”
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McCarthy Empathizes with ‘Frustrated’ Smith, LVE
After the 31-29 defeat to the Bucs, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy confirmed that Smith and Vander Esch’s inactivity was attributed to multiple factors, including the “climate and the humidity” permeating throughout Raymond James Stadium. He also allowed for natural frustration to set in.
“I think they understand if you look at the big picture,” McCarthy said, via The Athletic. “We took 24 defensive players into the game. We had projections of how we wanted to play guys, and we knew it was going to be a challenge with the climate and the humidity. I think we really hit the target as far as getting the distribution of playing all the guys on defense.
“So, yeah, personally, I can’t speak on their behalf, if they weren’t frustrated, I’d be disappointed. These guys have played a lot of football throughout their whole career. It’s our focus to be better as a whole as a defense and frankly, the more players you play, the better off you’re going to be.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL