The story of Jaylon Smith is one of the most compelling in this month's NFL Draft. The Notre Dame linebacker was viewed by many as a top-five pick, but that was before he tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in the first quarter of Notre Dame's Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State. Nerve damage was also reportedly found. Earlier this week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Smith "is not expected to play in 2016 and teams are unsure when he'll play again."
On Wednesday, I asked Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly what went through his mind when he heard those reports, especially given the impact Smith has made on his program and for the gracious way he's handled a tough situation.
#ND LB Jaylon Smith asked about the way he was injured. Said it's just part of football. "Me and Taylor (Decker) talked. No hard feelings."— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 26, 2016
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"First, I would be careful to not jump to any kind of conclusions based upon the information that you're getting right now," Kelly said. "Jaylon will play in the NFL. It's just a matter of time. He's going to come back from this injury, and when he does he's going to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL. He has that kind of ability.
"This is an injury that we've seen before. We've had them on our team. They take time, but Jaylon is somebody that has had an incredible positive attitude."
Kelly also said Smith would not be any "gamble" for NFL teams weighing the option of taking the former All-American high in the draft and worrying that he won't ever be the same physically.
"He's a smart business decision when you're thinking about Jaylon Smith," Kelly said, "because he's going to get back on the field just because of his ability to heal. He's an incredible athlete and a positive guy. We're not in that mindset of disappointment or concern that he's not going to play again."