OXNARD, Calif. - A source close to linebacker Jaylon Smith tells me that more than ever, he enters 2021 with a "football-first'' attitude and an increasing understanding that as important as entrepreneurship is to him, everything needs to be about Dallas Cowboys success.
So Jaylon has a noticeably lower profile this summer ... until he's asked a question about his critics, as was the case on Saturday after the team's Oxnard training camp workout.
"I don't care who you are, you're going to have criticism," Smith said. "Michael Jordan had criticism. LeBron James, some of the best players in the world have criticism. That's just a part of the game.''
Is Jaylon comparing himself to Jordan and LeBron? No ... but that is surely the way his critics will hear the comments, just as his offseason urging for the naysayers to "watch the film'' was turned into a negative meme.
The truth: Smith is a magnet for the spotlight, definitely good and sometimes not so much. But there is another truth: I'm told that despite his smoothy-crafted answers, he fully understands that the Cowboys' recent drafting of linebackers Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox should be taken as a message to the incumbent linebackers.
So he's watched more film. Lifted more weights. Felt more inspired.
"You got to control what you can control,'' he said. "And for me it's just focused on my development and becoming a better player."
The knee injury he sustained in his last college game at Notre Dame that prevented him from being a top-five pick remains the stuff of legend. And his work in charities and in business? Trust me, I know for a fact he is making his mark.
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But after this season, Dallas has some contractual escapability here. One reason to be an entrepreneur? Football doesn't last forever. But that's the same reason, maybe, to put outside businesses aside for just a moment.
Football doesn't last forever.
"Always got something to prove," Smith said. "People thought I'd never play the game again and I'm here. Really, it's about reaching my maximum potential. That's what I'm focused on. Just doing whatever it takes to help the team win."
Smith might get moved to the strong-side linebacker spot, the least important of the three, with rookie Parsons taking over in the middle and with Leighton Vander Esch at weak-side. Still, this team needs him - as a football-first force.
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"None of that matters,'' Jaylon said of side-bar issues. "It's about winning. And for me, that's what I'm focused on. I'm a guy, I've been through it all and I always come out on top.''
It'd be great for the Cowboys if the Michael Jordan/LeBron James parallels weren't just about adversity and criticism - if they were about "coming out on top.'' That'd be Jaylon Smith's best business investment of all.