Jaylon Smith: I would play in the bowl game again

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At the end of last college football season, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a serious knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl, dropping him from a Top 5 pick to the second round and costing him millions of dollars. Yet Smith has no regrets.

After Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU running back Leonard Fournette announced that they will skip their bowl games to prepare for the NFL draft, many cited Smith’s injury as the reason that McCaffrey and Fournette are making wise decisions. But Smith said on Monday that he would play in the Fiesta Bowl again, just to compete one more time with his teammates, even knowing how much it cost him.

“Honestly,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “With Everything I’ve been through, If I could go back to Jan. 1st I’d play again.”

That may seem hard to understand for some, but it’s also an attitude that a lot of football players have: They want to do everything they can to help their team win, even if they suffer personally for it. That Smith has that attitude is certainly welcomed in Dallas, where the Cowboys have Smith under contract and are hoping he’ll begin playing for them next year, once that knee injury finally heals.

Myles Garrett bucks trend, will play in Texas Bowl

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Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett announced Monday that he will play in the Texas Bowl next week.

That’s newsworthy — and Garrett felt compelled to make an announcement — because other top NFL Draft prospects have been deciding to not play in largely insignificant bowl games in light of the injury then-Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.

Both LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey have announced they’re sitting out their final college games to prepare for the draft, and it seems to be something other top prospects will continue to do, this season and in future seasons.

But Garrett won’t.

“I plan to practice today and prepare to play in the bowl game with my teammates,” Garrett said in a statement released by Texas A&M.

Texas A&M lists Garrett at 6-foot-5, 270, and for nearly a year now various draft projections have listed Garrett as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. Garrett, a junior, has not officially declared for the draft.

Last summer, Garrett told reporters he had heard suggestions he should sit out the season to protect his health and draft status but said he was strongly against it.

“You don’t disgrace the game like that and say ‘It’s not worth my time and I’ll be a first-round pick anyway,'” Garrett said then. “You play because you love it, not because you can make money from it.”

Fournette, McCaffrey pave way for great college players to skip a full season

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Some of the folks who get paid to talk about college football are currently feeling quite threatened by the realization by those who don’t get paid to play college football that they actually have power. But the decisions of former LSU running back Leonard Fournette (pictured) and former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey to skip their respective bowl games in preparation for the draft possibly is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beyond the fact that other players inevitably will decide to not play in that one final game of their college careers, Fournette and McCaffrey have opened a door that eventually will lead to a player who: (1) has demonstrated skills that will make him a first-round draft pick; but (2) has not yet qualified for the NFL draft to skip the third year after the graduation of his high school class and spend that full season preparing for the draft (and not exposing himself to serious injury by playing football).

The same serious injury that could happen in the bowl game — for example, the serious injury that actually did happen to Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith a year ago — could happen in any game of the season, from the first of the regular season to the last. So if a player is going to sacrifice the final game of his unpaid football career in order to preserve his paid football career, why not sacrifice the full final season of his unpaid football career?

Those who have a clear financial interest in being paid by a certain four-letter network to bloviate about college football and/or major corporations to sit in a tent for a TV commercial that promotes the coverage of bowl games will never understand his because their financial interests prevent them from acknowledging the basic wisdom of the approach, even if deep down they know it.

Surely, they know it. They know that it’s not fair to give players who generate billions in revenue an education they can’t fully pursue and may not even want. They know that these players should make the same business decisions that anyone else would make. They know that the coaches who become offended when a player acts in his own best interests routinely reject and eject players who aren’t deemed to be sufficiently talented to help the coaches earn salaries that are inflated by the fact that the players don’t have to be paid.

They know the current system is inherently corrupt. They know it’s not sustainable. They know major changes to the college football model are inevitable. They know that the people responsible for the sport may eventually be inclined to say “screw it” if they can’t come up with a viable solution.

None of these concerns make it right. The players are and for decades have been exploited, and they have every right to think of themselves. Fournette is doing the right thing, McCaffrey is doing the right thing, and any player who chooses to preserve his health by sitting out one or more college football games in order to preserve his professional interests is doing the right thing.

The game plan seems to consist of delaying the inevitable for as long as possible, by shaming college football players who make business decisions and/or by raising specious arguments, like the idea that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott should quit playing pro football because he’s underpaid as a rookie.

Prescott has business decisions to make (quitting pro football because he’s not eligible for a new contract for two more years wouldn’t be a good business decision), Fournette has business decisions to make, McCaffrey has business decisions to make. Everyone connected to pro and college football has business decisions to make.

Why? Because pro and college football are billion-dollar businesses, and everyone else associated with those sports routinely make business decisions, too. The fans and the media can call the players selfish, or the fans and the media can realize that, if their sons, brothers, nephews, and/or friends were in the same situation, they’d be urging them to not blindly bend to the will of others but to engage in objective assessments of all relevant factors before making decisions on where to play, when to play, and whether to play.

Christian McCaffrey skips bowl game to focus on NFL draft

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Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey has joined LSU running back Leonard Fournette in making a rare decision that may soon become commonplace: They’re skipping their bowl games to focus on the NFL draft.

McCaffrey announced today that he won’t play in Stanford’s bowl game because he wants to keep his body healthy for the Combine and put himself in the best position possible at draft time.

“Very tough decision, but I have decided not to play in the Sun Bowl so I can begin my draft prep immediately,” McCaffrey wrote. “Thanks to all my teammates for their 100% support–It means a lot to me. Go Cardinal!”

McCaffrey and Fournette are taking an unusual step, but it may soon become commonplace. Last year, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a major knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl and dropped from a likely Top 5 pick to the second round, costing himself millions of dollars in the process. Why should players take that risk while they’re amateurs, instead of protecting their bodies until they turn pro?

They shouldn’t. McCaffrey and Fournette are doing the smart thing. And whether the NCAA likes it or not, it will soon become the common thing.

Fournette skipping LSU’s bowl game, focusing on NFL

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LSU running back Leonard Fournette will not play in his team’s bowl game and will instead focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.

Fournette and LSU coach Ed Oregeon made the announcement Friday and called it a mutual decision to allow Fournette to get fully healthy. Orgeron told reporters that Fournette will be remembered as one of the best players in LSU history.

Though his decision is not a surprise — Fournette had an injury-riddled junior season and had already formally announced his intentions to turn pro — it will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend. Then-Notre Dame star linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a major knee injury in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, and he went from possible top-five pick to second-round pick who’s going to miss his entire rookie season.

Top NFL prospects have little incentive to play in non-playoff bowl games — and even in the College Football Playoff, those top prospects have much to lose. Fournette was so good in his first two college seasons that he sparked conversations last year and again last spring about whether playing even another down of college football would be worth the risk.

Fournette was limited to seven games and 843 rushing yards in his final college season. He matched his 2015 performance by averaging 6.5 yards per carry but had just eight rushing touchdowns a year after running for 22.

Cowboys shut Jaylon Smith down for the season, #asexpected

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The Cowboys used their three-week window to consider activating rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith from the non-football injury list, but the reality of the calendar has finally kicked in, and his season is over before it began.

Via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys recognized the inevitable and shut Smith down for the season because of the lingering nerve damage from his knee injury in his final college game. The Cowboys used a speculative second-round pick on Smith, not really expecting him to contribute this year but leaving the possibility dangling like a carrot.

“We don’t have him on permanent [injured reserve] because we really haven’t given up that he could have enough nerve regeneration that he could compete,” owner Jerry Jones said prior to the transaction on 105.3 The Fan. “I don’t know where that is, only God knows. But on the other hand, I do know how he’s rehabbed. I do know what he’s about. He’s even more than we had expected.

“He unequivocally is going to be an outstanding defensive player for us, maybe a cornerstone player for us. So we’re way ahead of the game as far as acquiring talent for the future, with him alone.”

If Smith can return to the field as the same kind of player he was at Notre Dame, the Cowboys will have bought low much in the way they did with guard La’el Collins (who went from potential first-round pick in 2015 to undrafted after his name was linked to a murder investigation, though he was never charged).

Sunday morning one-liners

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The Bills have lost nine of their last 10 against the Steelers.

The Dolphins should have plenty of cap space at their disposal this offseason.

Patience has worked out for Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy.

QB Bryce Petty isn’t the only young player who will get time as the Jets play out the string.

Ravens TE Nick Boyle is usually a blocker, but likes when the ball comes his way.

Will the Bengals win the battle of the running games in the Battle of Ohio?

QB Robert Griffin III is back in action for the Browns on Sunday.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is closing in on 100 career wins.

Texans RB Lamar Miller has been resilient this season.

Getting off to a quick start would help the Colts against the Texans.

Will the Jaguars end their interception drought this week?

A win on Sunday would push the Titans closer to a division title.

LB DeMarcus Ware says the Titans won’t push the Broncos defense around.

The Chiefs wouldn’t mind more from their ground game.

The Raiders defense held up on Thursday night.

Injuries took a heavy toll on the Chargers this year.

The Cowboys remain confident in the brightness of LB Jaylon Smith’s future.

A look back at how the Giants handled Dez Bryant in Week One.

The Eagles’ effort level will be watched closely this week after coach Doug Pederson said it wasn’t good enough in Week 13.

C Kory Lichtensteiger is back in action for the Redskins.

Bears CB Deiondre’ Hall hopes to make up for time lost to injury during his rookie season.

Lions RB Joique Bell got a master’s degree on Saturday.

A tough effort is required if the Packers are going to beat the Seahawks.

Can the Vikings close the season the way they did in 2012?

TE Austin Hooper could be a factor for the Falcons against the Rams.

The Panthers need to show more fight than they did last week.

A loss on Sunday would all but cancel the Saints’ already long playoff odds.

Takeaways have been a strength of the Buccaneers defense.

Said Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, “We need to win out and we need a little help down the stretch. All we can do is control what we can control, and that’s our effort and our performance.”

A win would help the Rams quiet talk about organizational dysfunction.

The Jets offer the 49ers this week’s chance to snap their losing streak.

Seahawks receivers have to hone their skills as blockers.

Cowboys plan to take Jaylon Smith off NFI list, but still not expected to play

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Players on the physically unable to perform and non-football injury lists have to start practicing with teams now if they are going to be eligible to play at any point this season, which leaves the Cowboys with some decisions to make about linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Smith, the team’s second-round pick this year, has not been on the field since suffering a serious knee injury in Notre Dame’s bowl game at the end of last season and is still suffering from nerve damage that has clouded his prospects beyond this year. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Monday that the team plans to activate him from the NFI list, which gives them three more weeks to decide if they are going to shut him down for the year.

It sounds as if that’s the likeliest outcome given that Jones doesn’t think Smith will actually start practicing during the three-week window.

“That doesn’t mean anything will change with Jaylon in terms of his routine,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan, via the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t actually see him [returning to the field], even though he’s eligible to practice — just to extend your period. If we weren’t to activate him, then they would certainly be done if they don’t start practicing.”

Running back Darren McFadden is also expected to come off the NFI list after breaking his elbow over the summer and Jones said he “will actually return to practice full bore.”

Wednesday morning one-liners

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Former Jet LaDainian Tomlinson thinks the Jets should start Geno Smith over Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Bills have seen improvements on offense and defense in going from 0-2 to 2-2.

Dolphins rookie Jakeem Grant would like to race Usain Bolt in a 40-yard dash.

One sports writer says the Patriots fans are the worst fans in the NFL.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin likes to spread the ball around on offense.

The Ravens fan who was attacked at Sunday’s game is recovering.

Bill Belichick is returning to Cleveland this weekend, where he was once coach of the Browns.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert may debut against the Cowboys this week.

Texans G.M. Rick Smith says Brock Osweiler, the quarterback Smith is paying $18 million a year, is playing well this season.

It’s possible that the Titans could play at home on Sunday, instead of in Miami, as Hurricane Matthew may force the Dolphins to vacate.

Heads are rolling in Indianapolis after the Colts’ rough start.

Here’s a look at some of the key plays for the Jaguars in Sunday’s win over the Colts.

The Chiefs’ team leaders are taking Sunday’s loss to the Steelers on their own shoulders.

Is Paxton Lynch ready to start over Trevor Siemian in Denver?

The Raiders took a step to bolster their depth at linebacker.

The Chargers feel like they could be 4-0 but are instead 1-3 thanks to fourth-quarter meltdowns.

Cowboys rookie LB Jaylon Smith is still holding out hope that he can recover from his Fiesta Bowl knee injury in time to play this year.

Ex-Giants coach Tom Coughlin says he’d like to help WR Odell Beckham Jr.

The Eagles are expecting LT Lane Johnson to play on Sunday as he continues to await word of his appeal of a 10-game PED suspension.

In Washington, the defense knows it has to tackle better.

Former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz may get carried off the field if his Eagles beat the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.

The Packers’ run defense is looking good.

Despite K Blair Walsh’s struggles, the Vikings aren’t planning to bring in competition.

Chicago is fickle in its opinions of Bears QB Jay Cutler.

Here’s the Falcons’ depth chart for Sunday against the Broncos.

Panthers QB Cam Newton is being sued for damage to a rental home.

Saints CB B.W. Webb just signed with the team after Week One but has already made a big contribution.

The Buccaneers are giving some players extra rest this week.

Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu says he’s eager to force some turnovers.

The Rams are in first place, and their special teams are a big part of it.

The 49ers play in Santa Clara, whose mayor accuses the team of shady political dealings.

Seahawks CB Richard Sherman’s interception on Sunday was predicted by the team’s radio announcer.

Jaylon Smith to NFI, Kellen Moore to IR in Dallas

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The two biggest names included on the list of Cowboys roster moves on Tuesday probably didn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed the team through the offseason.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith has been placed on the reserve/non-football injury list as a result of the serious knee injury he suffered in his final game at Notre Dame. The Cowboys took Smith in the second round despite that injury and resulting nerve damage that has clouded the outlook for when he’ll be able to play again. It won’t be in the first six weeks of the season as a result of this move, but there never seemed to be an expectation that returning at that point was a possibility.

Quarterback Kellen Moore won’t be back at all this year after being placed on injured reserve. Moore broke his leg earlier this month, bumping Dak Prescott into the No. 2 job and then into the starting role when Tony Romo broke a bone in his back.

The Cowboys also placed tight end James Hanna on the reserve/physically unable to perform list and waived wide receiver Rodney Smith, guard Mike McQueen, guard Dan Buchholz, wide receiver Richard Mullaney, cornerback Arjen Coquhoun and linebacker Henoc Muamba.

 

Clemson buys $5 million insurance policies for Deshaun Watson

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Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is viewed by some as the top prospect for the 2017 NFL draft. If an injury changes that, he’s financially protected.

Clemson has paid for a pair of $5 million insurance policies for Watson, ESPN reports. One of the policies would pay out of Watson suffered a career-ending injury, while the other policy would pay Watson if an injury forces his draft stock to plunge.

“It gives me peace of mind,” Watson told ESPN.

Several college players have bought insurance policies to protect them in such situations, although those policies typically pay far less than a player loses when he suffers a serious injury. Cowboys second-round pick Jaylon Smith, for instance, will reportedly collect $900,000 on his injury policy. The severe injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl this year, however, likely cost him nearly $20 million on his rookie contract. And Jaguars second-round pick Myles Jack, who also dropped in the draft because of a knee injury, did not collect anything from his injury policy because it would only make a payment if he fell below the 45th overall pick, and Jack went 36th.

So while an injury policy is a good thing for Watson to have, a much better thing to have will be a healthy 2016 season.

Cowboys LB Andrew Gachkar having thumb surgery

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There hasn’t been much good news at linebacker for the Cowboys this year.

Rolando McClain isn’t in camp and will be suspended for the first 10 games of the season if he does report and both Damien Wilson and Jaylon Smith are on the non-football injury list. Now it looks like they’ll be without another linebacker for a little while.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday, via Todd Archer of ESPN.com, that linebacker Andrew Gachkar has flown back to Dallas from California in order to have surgery on his thumb. Garrett said that there is no timetable for Gachkar’s return to the lineup.

Gachkar played every game for the Cowboys last season after signing with the team as a free agent in the offseason. He’s been in the mix for playing time at middle linebacker with McClain absent and could rejoin that competition should his recovery from surgery move quickly.

Darren McFadden, Jaylon Smith placed on Cowboys NFI list

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There was some confusion about just how Cowboys running back Darren McFadden injured his elbow this offseason, but there was wasn’t much doubt that McFadden would miss some practice time this summer as a result.

Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports that the Cowboys confirmed that assumption by placing McFadden on the non-football injury list Friday. Per Archer, McFadden had a recent scan of the break that showed improvement and that he is expected to be back to work for the first week of the regular season.

There’s no such optimism about linebacker Jaylon Smith. The rookie suffered a severe knee injury late last season and is suffering from nerve damage that has cast serious doubt about his chances of playing at all this season. Smith has also been placed on the NFI list and it would be a surprise if he doesn’t remain there into the regular season.

Running back Lance Dunbar, defensive end Benson Mayowa and defensive tackle Maliek Collins were all placed on the physically unable to perform list. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who is coming off a torn ACL, and likebacker Sean Lee, who had a knee scope this offseason, avoided the PUP list and are cleared to practice.

Jerry Jones: Jaylon Smith “not behind” in recovery from nerve damage in knee

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When the Cowboys took linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft, they did so with the knowledge that nerve damage to Smith’s knee made it difficult to predict when he’d be able to play again.

A report from Ed Werder of ESPN last month stated that Smith has seen no “significant improvement” in his injured nerve and that it remains unlikely that Smith will be able to play this season. During an appearance on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, Jones didn’t offer much reason to dismiss that report while saying that the Cowboys didn’t anticipate anything different at this point.

“His progress is really undetermined, but that was to be expected,” Jones said. “He is not off plan at all. The rejuvenation of the nerve that would help him get in position to actually hit the playing field is not complete, but it is not behind. It was to be expected. Our doctors are not dismayed at all. I’m not. It’s the type of thing that could really come around. And if it comes around, we’ll take advantage of it.”

Jones added that Smith is “doing many things” that would qualify as progress, although anything short of a return to the field would fall short of the progress that the Cowboys will need to start realizing a return on their investment in the linebacker.

Potential top pick Myles Garrett says he’d never sit out to protect draft stock

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Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is a potential first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, and as a result some have suggested that he should sit out his junior season this year and keep himself healthy to protect his draft stock. Garrett says he’d never do that.

I’ve heard it but I’m against it,” Garrett told NFL Media. “I want to be one of the best that’s ever come through A&M, and that would just be betraying the people I’ve played with and the people who have come before me, who have worked their butt off.”

Another player with first overall pick talent, Jaylon Smith, blew out his knee in Notre Dame’s bowl game this year and fell to the second round of the draft, where the Cowboys picked him. Garrett acknowledged that it’s possible that some day a player will see injuries like Smith’s and decide to sit out a season to avoid injury, but Garrett hopes that doesn’t happen.

“It could get to that point, but I hope it doesn’t. It’s hurting the game,” Garrett said. “You don’t disgrace the game like that and say ‘It’s not worth my time and I’ll be a first-round pick anyway.’ You play because you love it, not because you can make money from it.”

That’s an attitude that Garrett’s A&M coaches and teammates will like, and it’s an attitude that NFL teams will like as well. But it does carry risks. If Garrett gets hurt this year, some 2018 draft prospect may see that and decide that he’s better off sitting out.