Dallas Cowboys’ Tyron Smith facing surgery for torn hamstring, possible December return, sources say

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10:15 AM ET

  • Todd Archer

    CloseESPN Staff Writer

    • Covered NFL since 1997, Cowboys since 2003
    • Previously covered Bengals and Dolphins
    • Lives in Dallas area with his wife and two children
  • Adam Schefter

    CloseESPN Senior Writer

    • ESPN NFL Insider
    • Joined ESPN in 2009
    • Former president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the author of four books

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith is unlikely to return before December after his left hamstring tore and came off the bone during Wednesday’s practice, sources told ESPN on Thursday.

Smith is scheduled to have surgery on Friday, a source told ESPN.

“It’s a big disappointment, none more so than for Tyron himself,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Thursday. “… Immediately that battle cry is ‘let’s get it done early in the season,’ because when Tyron gets back, we’ll be that much stronger.

“We want it pushed up there where we’re in the lead. When we get there healthy, we can make that run in the playoffs. This doesn’t diminish that hope”

Smith was hurt on a running play and went to the ground as he went to make a block on linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. He was able to walk to the locker room without any help, and the initial tests indicated the ACL in his left knee was intact.

On Field Off Field
Yards/Rush 4.8 4.1
Yard/Pass Att. 7.8 7.1
Sack Pct. 4.2 6.2
— ESPN Stats & Information

Smith was spotted leaving the locker room after practice and did not appear to be limping.

The loss of Smith, an eight-time Pro Bowler and protector of Dak Prescott’s blind side, creates a gaping hole on an offensive line that was already dealing with questions before the Sept. 11 opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“The time frame is a factor, but we’ll step up there and make do,” Jones told ESPN after his First Take appearance. “We’re going to line up against them, I’ll tell you that, and not default.”

Dallas drafted Tyler Smith in the first round to be the left tackle of the future and has used him exclusively at left guard during training camp and the first two preseason games. He is also dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of the past two practices.

“Hello, Tyler Smith. He’ll be an important part of this puzzle, our No. 1 draft pick,” Jones said. “… We’ll put some people in the fire that will get reps that we haven’t planned on. That’s the secret to the offensive line, is to have the reps, get the repetition. It is that kind of position. It’s going to give some people some reps. We’ve got to figure out a way for our skill players to take up the slack and that defense to take the slack up.”

The Cowboys have played Josh Ball, who was selected in the fourth round last year but did not play as a rookie because of an ankle injury, at left tackle with the first team when Smith has taken breaks. They also drafted Matt Waletzko in the fifth round this year, but he only returned to practice this week after dealing with a shoulder injury for most of training camp.

Coach Mike McCarthy has singled out Aviante Collins’ play during camp, but Collins has not played in a game since 2019. He spent most of last season on Dallas’ practice squad.

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The Cowboys could look for veteran help in free agency or via trade to replace Smith. Eric Fisher, the No. 1 pick in 2013, is unsigned after starting 15 games last season for the Indianapolis Colts.

Dallas has more than $20 million in salary-cap space, according to NFL Players Association figures, but a good portion of that is scheduled to be directed to the practice squad and in-season call-ups.

Tyler Smith took snaps at left tackle during organized team activities and minicamp. He started 12 games at left tackle last season at Tulsa and nine in his redshirt freshman season in 2020. The Cowboys like his strength and makeup but wanted him to focus on one position during training camp.

The injury continues a string of injuries in recent years for Tyron Smith, who has not played a full season since 2015 as he has dealt with knee, ankle, neck and elbow injuries. He missed 14 games in 2020 because of neck surgery. He missed six games last season due to an ankle injury and a stint on the COVID list.

“We played a lot of games without Tyron,” Jones told ESPN’s First Take on Thursday, “but not as successfully as we do with him.”

Smith, who is the longest-tenured Cowboy, turns 32 in December. He is signed through 2023.