FRISCO - "He's a monster.''
"Who the hell is No. 58?''
“Everything is happening and everything is looking good. ... I hold myself to high standards. I feel like I can compete with the best. I feel like I’m one of the best.”
The first quote is from QB Dak Prescott about Aldon Smith. The second quote is from coach Mike McCarthy about Aldon Smith. The third quote is from Aldon Smith ... about Aldon Smith.
And all assessments, after a week of Dallas Cowboys stay-at-home training camp here at The Star in Frisco, are accurate.
As we know, Smith busted into the NFL a decade ago with the San Francisco 49ers and from 2011 through 2013 recorded 42 sacks in 43 regular-season games. But then came some horrific behavioral issues and an NFL ban. The Cowboys knew he might be reinstated this offseason, had McCarthy quickly develop a relationship with him, relied on Cowboys new D-line boss Jim Tomsula (who coached Smith in The Bay) and got help from DFW-based agent Ron Slavin as part of the support system, and signed Smith to an absurdly cheap one-year deal.
"It’s something I never really lost,'' said Smith of his innate ability, fortified now by a new devotion to the weight room and a 20-pounds-of-muscle increase to his 6-4, now 280-plus-pound frame. "It’s something I’ve always been able to do, so it wasn’t too tough to get back into.''
That's the shocker for McCarthy, who was asked what his on-field impressions would be if he didn't know the background of the "new guy.''
Said McCarthy: “Hey, the who hell is No. 58?’ That (would be) my thought ... He looks good. He’s hitting all the targets. You can see his power, his length is extraordinary. I’m very, very happy with where Aldon is right now. … He’s impressive.”
We write here in detail about both Smith's career ups and downs and about the Cowboys penchant, driven by owner Jerry Jones, to give second chances to talented people. And Smith, even at age 30 and a half-decade out of football, is certainly that.
“Damn sure doesn’t look like he hasn’t played in five years,'' Prescott said. "He’s going to make all of us better. A great player.''
Smith has spent this first week starting at one defensive end, opposite another Pro Bowler, DeMarcus Lawrence. The tandem has paired up to star in this camp. ... and Smith said the kindship, with Tank and the rest, is already in place.
He most missed "the camaraderie,'' he said. "The guys, the laughs, the little jokes. Just being around guys and things that, just locker room fun.''
But it all came back to him. That first day of practice, wearing the head-turning, eyebrow-raising, "Who's that guy?'' No. 58.
"I don’t know if I told any of the guys, but I was thinking in my head, 'It’s been a long road, being back on the field after that much time off.' It was a blessing and it was a little surreal. But I was very prepared and excited to go out there and put things together.''