Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told Dallas reporters on Saturday that 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith would be able to play in the fall with the help of an AFO (ankle/foot orthoses) brace.
Now, the whole truth, as I understand it: The team very much views any and everything it gets from Smith in 2017 as a bonus. In last year’s draft, nerve damage and a resulting case of drop foot knocked Smith, previously a potential top-5 pick, out of the first-round altogether. The nerve has started firing again, and he’s gained foot activation, but he’s nowhere close to full strength and may never get there.
Can he be effective playing with the brace? This sounds harsh, but it’s unlikely.
The brace is designed to allow the most basic of things—your foot to clear the ground when you take a step forward. It’s designed to stabilize but it doesn’t recreate the energy you normally generate when you push off your foot. And that’s why Dr. Thomas Gill, the former Patriots team doc who saw ex-New England RB Robert Edwards go through this scenario almost two decades ago, is skeptical on Smith.