Prister’s Thursday Thoughts

The Cowboys are holding out hope that Jaylon Smith could be ready for the playoffs. Of greater concern to Dallas is making the playoffs, which they’ve done once in six years.

THE FINAL CHAPTER

The Greg Bryant story cannot be told briefly or with a definitive characterization. It was a life of dichotomies and varying layers, great promise and untapped skills.

From the unlikely scenario of ending up at Notre Dame in the first place to the not-so-unexpected departure prior to the start of his third season with the Irish.

He was the legitimate five-star talent from Delray Beach, Fla. He was the miscast superstar at Notre Dame where conforming to an unfamiliar world was baffling.

He was the kid from the family that desperately wanted him at Notre Dame and a place where he himself knew he could benefit greatly. He was the kid who looked to escape and find a comfort zone, away from the rigors that are Notre Dame.

Greg Bryant was the running back with the most talent. He also was the running back upon which drawing out that talent remained an unsolved mystery for coaches Tony Alford and Autry Denson.

With Bryant, there seemed to be a flipside to everything, which is what makes his death by a fatal gunshot last weekend an agonizing completion of the foreshadowed warnings of his father.

Greg Bryant Sr. fought to keep his namesake away from places like his hometown of Delray Beach as well as West Palm Beach, where he ultimately breathed his last breath.

Described by one Notre Dame insider as “a great kid, a kind kid…I never had anyone complain to me about Greg Bryant,” he had much to offer Notre Dame as a football player and as an example of a young man who could overcome the difficulties the challenging Notre Dame environment presented.

It sounded as if Bryant was headed in the right direction after escaping Notre Dame for ASA in Florida, and then UAB, where he was on track to play in 2017.

 “This guy did a complete 180,” said Timothy Alexander, the life coach for Alabama-Birmingham’s football team. “People counted Greg out. Greg counted himself in. It shows what one man can do when you believe in yourself.”

Forever more, that’s where the story will end, a story with so many more chapters to be written, an unfinished book without its author to make it complete.

NO INJURED RESERVE FOR JAYLON SMITH

Jerry Jones, owner/general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that former Irish standout and second-round draft pick Jaylon Smith – who is recovering from a torn ACL/LCL – will not be placed on injured reserve when the season starts, keeping alive the possibility of participating in the playoffs.

“Playoffs?!? Are you kidding me?!? Playoffs?!?”

Cowboys fans might invoke Jim Mora’s name for the playoff reference since Dallas has participated in post-season play just once in the last six seasons and is coming of a 4-12 campaign. But it’s good news for Smith – at least in theory – as he begins full-time work with the Cowboys’ athletic training staff to get the damaged nerve in his left knee to “re-fire.”

Smith likely will open the season on the non-football injury list (NFI) since the injury took place with Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. If he remains on NFI for Week One, he’ll have to stay there for at least six games, which would give him another six weeks to rehab.

A new NFL bylaw allows teams to choose one player to return to practice among the players on injured reserve, as long as he’s spent at least six weeks on IR. Smith could be that player.

Keeping it real, this is all extremely premature, just as the reports were immediately after the surgery that Smith would make “a full recovery.”

It’s more likely that Smith sits out the entire season, particularly if the Cowboys make it six out of seven years without a playoff berth. But the progress continues for Smith in what will be the complete feel-good story of the 2016 draft if/when he makes it all the way back.

WILLIAMS A GIANT

It didn’t take long for Ishaq Williams to impress the New York Giants and new head coach Ben McAdoo. A three-day tryout led to a three-year contract offer.

Keep in mind, this is the NFL. That money is not guaranteed. He’ll have to make the team to reap the rewards of the contract. He currently is listed as a fourth-team right end behind veteran free-agent signee Olivier Vernon, pre-accident star Jason Pierre-Paul and Mike Rose, also an undrafted free agent.

Williams is one of several familiar names in Notre Dame circles with ties to the New York football Giants. Currently listed on the Giants roster are former Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson – a sixth-round pick by New York in 2014 – former Houston nose tackle Louis Nix III, and recent Irish teammate Romeo Okwara.

There are a couple of other Notre Dame names to remember as it relates to the Giants. One is former Notre Dame personnel director Tim McDonnell, who is now a scout for the Giants (as well as the grandson of the late Giants owner Wellington Mara and cousin of actresses Kate and Rooney Mara).

There’s also another defensive end on the Giants roster by the name of Brad Bars, older brother of current Irish right tackle Alex Bars.

NEW DEAL WITH BEAL

Great news for Notre Dame earlier this week when Georgia prep defensive end Robert Beal “reinserted” Notre Dame back into the mix as the family reportedly removed brother and sister (Shyla, a track and field aspirant) attending the same college as a prerequisite.

It remains uncertain as to how much ground the Irish have to make up, but it’s noteworthy with Alabama, home-state Georgia, Florida State and Texas apparently in his latest lead pack.

At least time is on Notre Dame’s side and, per usual, so is the current makeup of the Irish roster. Neither the big end nor rush end position has anyone established beyond Isaac Rochell, who will be pursuing a career on the professional level by the time Beal enrolls in college.

Can you picture a healthy Daelin Hayes and Robert Beal in Notre Dame uniforms manning the defensive end spots? That would solve many of the persistent pass-rush issues that plague Notre Dame virtually every season.

IRISH ARCHIVES

Part of our off-season offerings will include our Irish Archives series, which features former Notre Dame players, a recap of their time at Notre Dame and in the NFL, and an update on what they’ve been doing since their football careers closed.

So far, we’ve featured wide receiver Malcolm Johnson (1995-98) and offensive guard Tim Grunhard (1986-89). Feel free to make a suggestion on The Four Horsemen Lounge with the header Irish Archives.


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