The trend toward key NFL prospects skipping non-playoff bowl games gained a boost from the serious knee injury suffered by former Notre Dame (and current Cowboys) linebacker Jaylon Smith. But Smith says he wouldn’t have passed on playing in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State if he had an example like his own to rely on.
“Those freak types of accidents, injuries, they happen,” Smith told Ed Werder and Matt Mosley of the Doomsday Podcast. “But you don’t go in the game thinking, ‘Oh man I’m going to get hurt.’ That was my decision, and I love it. And I wouldn’t change it. If I knew that I was going to get hurt and wasn’t going to be a top-five pick again, I would have literally played in that game again because of my teammates and how much Notre Dame means to me.”
It’s one thing for Smith to say he’d assume the risk again. Smith is saying he’d embrace the consequence, too.
“We’re playing in the Fiesta Bowl with three, four, five top-10 picks in that game,” Smith said. “It was a really highly anticipated game. My brother [former Cowboys running back Rod Smith] played at Ohio State, and Ohio State was my second choice. I always wanted to get a chance to play.”
Smith nevertheless respects those who decide not to play in bowl games that can’t lead to a championship.
“Salute to those guys,” Smith said. “My experience, what I liked about people making their decisions, whether they’re playing the game or not, it’s your own decision. You have to make that decision for you. So for me, I made the decision to play in that game, and I don’t regret it at all. That’s the beauty of any decision I’ve made, it’s been my decision. If I had the decision again, I would have played in that game.”
Some will say that Smith wouldn’t say anything else, because there’s nothing at this point that he can do to change the outcome. Regardless, the point is that these business decisions need to be made. Regardless of whether the player chooses to play or not to play, something that previously wasn’t even a consideration has now become an occasion for players to balance their future interests against their current circumstances.