Cowboys waves over LB Smith’s exit as players advance

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FRISCO, TX (AP) – Jaylon Smith’s dark future with the Dallas Cowboys was most evident when he only played 16 snaps in Game 1 after averaging 95% of plays over the three seasons previous ones.

Now that the roster looks more like it was in that 31-29 loss to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, the Cowboys leave the linebacker who recovered from a serious knee injury during his last college game to become one of their most enduring players.

Coach Mike McCarthy won’t go into details of the factors in a statement that became official on Wednesday, but another was the looming $ 9.2 million guarantee of Smith’s salary in 2022 if he was injured.

McCarthy also didn’t explain why they wouldn’t keep Smith in depth as an inactive player, or why they waited up to four games in the season. The Cowboys (3-1) face the New York Giants (1-3) in the last of three straight home games on Sunday.

“There are always factors involved, how you build your 90-man roster, how you go through training camp and get to the 53 and the extended practice squad,” said McCarthy. “He played a lot of good football for us. I have nothing but respect for him.

Smith’s release hit a sore spot with fellow linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who have been teammates since they went to the playoffs together in 2018. Vander Esch said Smith made a statement to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to ask him to do so. read it to the players he left behind.

“The statement he made… telling us to go get her and that he supports everyone no matter what situation he finds himself in, that just shows you the character and type of person he is. “said Vander Esch. “Yes, it is a difficult situation.”

Vander Esch, whose own future with the Cowboys beyond this season is in question, said he found out about Smith’s release on social media after receiving texts asking him to. These circumstances triggered it.

“What bothers me the most is when the people outside, the fans or whoever, they want to say, ‘Oh, someone deserves this or someone deserves that'”, said Vander Esch, a 2018 first-round draft pick whose fifth-year option for next season has not been retained.

“We’re not talking about someone else’s work, so why are they talking about our jobs? It’s really frustrating. It’s boring. I think it’s classless. I have a lot of strong words for that. I know a lot of guys in the league take care of it.

As Smith’s productivity and value on the field declined, questions will remain as to whether the Cowboys compromised their quick start to the season with a somewhat surprising decision that perhaps could have waited.

The impact was clear on Vander Esch, who said he hadn’t spoken to Smith and wanted to let things “die out” first. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, who entered the NFL with Smith in 2016, better hid his emotions while acknowledging the connection runs deep.

“I don’t think we can let that hurt the energy,” Elliott said. “We cannot let this be a distraction. We still have the goal of winning a Super Bowl this year. Yeah, that sucks. But we have to control what we can control as a team and go out there and improve. “

After Smith’s 48-game start streak ended in Game 1, his snaps increased the next two games as rookie Micah Parsons, the 12th overall, played mostly as a passer due to the absence. defensive linemen.

Parsons was back at linebacker last week against Carolina, and converted safety Keanu Neal returns against the Giants after missing two games with a positive COVID-19 test. Defensive end Bradlee Anae was also activated from the COVID-19 roster on Wednesday.

Smith didn’t play as a rookie as he recovered from a left knee injury in his last game at Notre Dame – against Elliott and Ohio State. Two years later, he hit career highs of four sacks and 13 quarterback presses before leading the team in tackles the past two seasons.

After signing a five-year, $ 64 million extension, Smith made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement in 2019. The contract called for $ 35 million in guaranteed money. The Cowboys moved on because they didn’t want to be hooked any longer.

“I just think he’s a great person beyond football,” Parsons said. “He does everything right, really sincere for him. I looked at him like a big brother. It was quite difficult when I heard the news.

NOTES: Elliott did not train due to a knee problem. The two-time running champion said the tension he felt in his knee the day after the game had eased considerably and he was not worried about being available against the Giants. … DT Carlos Watkins returned to training after missing the previous two games with a knee injury.

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