The above picture is from the Dallas Cowboys' Week 3 game against the Arizona Cardinals. Tyron Smith is shown leading the team out of the tunnel as the offensive captain. Every indicator pointed toward Smith starting at left tackle, but fans were thrown a knee-buckling curveball when Smith didn't participate in warmups.
Before long, Smith was made a last-minute scratch, so the Cowboys were without Smith, right guard Zack Martin and center Tyler Biadasz in the game. While Martin and Biadasz returned to the lineup in Week 4, Smith remained sidelined for the 38-3 win.
On Monday, head coach Mike McCarthy said Smith is "doing much better," which lended some optimism that he could return this week.
That optimism was short-lived, however, as Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday that Smith is "iffy" for Sunday's mammoth game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Though Martin is expected to play, per Jones, Smith trending toward a third straight missed game brings into question why he wasn't put on injured reserve.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: Tyron Smith 'iffy' to play Week 5 vs 49ers
It's easy to say in hindsight, but Smith is just occupying a roster spot at this point. Is his knee injury worse than initially feared? The front office stressed that the injury wasn't long-term. And yet, the practice week hasn't even started and Jones is already cautioning fans from getting their hopes up that the left tackle could play.
That's a worrying sign. Unfortunately, it's no surprise given Smith's injury history.
He's dealt with knee injuries in the past. The second he was iffy to play against the Patriots, moving him to injured reserve should've been considered. Taking things week-by-week with a player who played 17 games spanning 2020-2022 (three seasons) and hasn't played a full season in almost a decade (2015) is shortsighted.
Per Mike McCarthy, Smith will most likely be in the rehab group Wednesday and possibly be limited in that practice.
At the end of the day, not putting Smith on IR isn't a huge deal. The Cowboys have gotten creative with their practice squad elevations and the offensive line performed well against the Patriots, including fill-in LT Chuma Edoga.
That said, the minimal roster flexibility forced Dallas to expose core special teamer Devin Harper to waivers and he was scooped up by the Bengals. The Cowboys hoped to re-sign Harper to the practice squad. Alas, Malik Jefferson is the lone LB on the practice squad; a position that didn't have much depth to begin with.
Are we splitting hairs? Perhaps, but it will be highly frustrating if Smith is unable to play against the 49ers. That would mark three straight absences for the eight-time Pro Bowler. Four games would equal a stint on injured reserve.