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Cowboys' Jaylon Smith after minicamp: 'I feel like me'

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For Jaylon Smith, the wait has been long enough.

After missing his entire rookie season due to a gruesome college knee injury, the Dallas Cowboys linebacker is on his way toward finally seeing game action in 2017.

"I feel like me. I look like me. I am me," Smith told USA TODAY's Tom Pelissero. "I'm Jaylon Smith. Ready to play some ball."

Viewed as a top-five draft talent, Smith fell to Round 2 last year amid concerns over his battle with drop foot, the result of nerve damage suffered when he hurt the knee in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. Smith is still wearing a brace over the knee, but Pelissero described him as flashing "downhill burst" in individual drills during this week's minicamp.

Smith also displayed a "slight limp" and occasionally needed to "take a beat ... to change direction and accelerate," but the hope is that the former Notre Dame star will regain full health and play a role this September -- a role that would grow over time.

"The nerve's regenerating, so I'm doing great," Smith said. "It's all God's timing."

There were concerns at one stage that Smith might never play again. Instead, the team is seeing progress, only furthering hopes that their second-round investment will someday become a Cowboys fixture.

"He's starting to show that quickness and instincts," Dallas linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. "And then when we get the pads on him, we'll get to see his striking ability. We're excited about him."

While minicamp is filled with nonsensical narratives, this isn't one of them. Smith's return to the field would serve as nothing less than a major achievement.

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