Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith says he's recovering well and should be ready to play next season, according to reports.
The Cowboys' 2016 second-round draft pick told The Dallas Morning News' Brandon George Thursday that the nerve in his injured leg has started to regenerate.
"It's just a thing that you have to have patience," he said. "I'm going to continue to do everything I'm asked and controlling what I can control and we're going to take our time with it."
Smith said he has run a 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and change-of-direction sprinting has improved. He said he even thinks he could have played in the playoffs.
"I think I could have played and competed at an elite level," Smith said, "but with us coming together and realizing the situation with the nerve coming back, we're going to be patient and trust God's timing."
Smith tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, which was his last game at Notre Dame. The consensus All-America selection also won the Bednarik and Butkus Awards and was widely regarded as a top-10 in the 2016 NFL Draft talent.
Smith had surgery before the NFL Draft last year to reconstruct his ACL. The surgery was performed by the Cowboys' team doctor.
The Cowboys placed Smith on the injured reserve list in December, ending his rookie season.
Smith said he thinks he'll be ready by offseason practices, which begin in May. In the meantime, he said he's just being patient.
"I've accepted the reality I won't be playing this year," Smith said. "I've come to terms with it. I understand God has a plan. I've been thankful to be on this team and to watch my guys go out there and ball."