Happy and healthy, Dallas Cowboys’ Tyron Smith eyes playing ‘til the wheels fall off’

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Why does Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith consider a neck injury that caused him to miss 14 games last season and suffer through the miserable frustration of watching his teammates struggle to a 6-10 finish a good thing?

Answer: Because after going through a stretch in which he missed three games in each of the previous four seasons due to back and neck issues, the injuries became so debilitating that he was forced to have surgery.

“It’s no longer a lingering injury or something I have to worry about,” Smith said. “It feels fine right now. It feels great. Strength’s back, and it feels better than it did before. This injury, it sucks to say, but it came at a good time last year. Not a good time, but it finally gave out, my neck did, and it finally got fixed.”

Not only is he feeling good and healthy but he is happier than ever with a new lease on his NFL life.

“For me, honestly, I’m just happy to be back,” Smith said with a wide smile. “You take it for granted until you’re actually out for a year not being able to help your teammates out, but when you’re around your group it feels good to be back. You feel good to be back and you feel good to be around your teammates. You can’t help but be happy to go out and play football.”

Smith’s renewed health is noticeable and tangible for a Cowboys team that went though 15 different offensive line combinations in 2020 due to a plethora of injuries up front, including right tackle La’el Collins, who missed all 16 games with a hip injury and Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin, who missed six games with an ankle injury.

But no one was missed more than Smith, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the league’s premier blindside protectors at left tackle. For the team to have the kind of success they want to have in 2021, the whole group being back is as crucial as the return of quarterback Dak Prescott from a fractured ankle.

“I’m loving the positive vibes,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think Tyron, just going off of last year’s experience, I haven’t seen him smile so much. I think a big part of it is he’s healthy. He’s pain-free. He looks great. The big man can run. You watch him go through the workout.”

Smith, a first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2011, said he has been dealing with stingers ever since he started playing football and it continued to get worse as he got older.

Once he began losing strength in his left arm, they took a deeper look and decided it was something that needed to be fixed.

“I didn’t know how bad it was until they actually went in,” Smith said. “So once that got fixed, everything kind of released and I started feeling more mobility. After some rehab, some recovery, got back to working out and it’s stronger than it was before.”

Beyond playing football, Smith is also ecstatic to be able to play with his son.

“To be honest with you I hate scaring my son like that with the injury that I had last year,” Smith said. “He understood but he also was pretty scared. So he was happy to see me jumping around, running around, jumping in the pool. He likes to see me back strong for me to throw him back in the pool.”

Based on his recovery, you can also expect to see Smith tossing around opposing pass rushers for the foreseeable future — so much so that the Cowboys no longer have concerns about finding a replacement for the 10-year veteran. And Smith isn’t giving any thought to walking away.

”For me, it’s always been ‘tll the wheels fall off, ‘til I can’t no more,” Smith said. “I can’t give you guys a time estimate or anything like that. I’m going to go as long as I can. Whether it’s four or five more years.”

“I can’t think too much about it, you got to think as if you’re still a young guy. If the team thinks you’re an old guy, you’re going to be an old guy. I try to keep a young mentality. I don’t want to be thinking I’m old or almost done or anything like that.”