Dallas Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith will return to the NFL in 2020 for the first time since 2015 after being reinstated by the league on Wednesday.
The Raytown High School graduate and former University of Missouri star believes he can pick where he left off, despite being idle for the last five years under NFL suspension due to repeated off-field issues and battling the demons of alcohol and substance abuse that had him sleeping under a car in 2018.
He says he can still be the player he once was because he has his life together and is a better person.
He was an All-Pro in 2012 when he had 19 1/2 sacks and the San Francisco 49ers reached the Super Bowl. He had 44 sacks in 50 games during his first four seasons with the 49ers.
"I'm an overall better person," Smith told TMZ sports. "I got 20 sacks – or 19.5, I say 20 because it was 20 – but I was able to play at a high level with a lot of other things going on in my life. With how life is for me now, I'm just looking forward to seeing what I can do. My goal is to pick up where I left off."
Smith, 30, is thankful to the Cowboys for giving him another chance in the NFL where he will be reunited with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula from his days with the 49ers."
"God has blessed me with talent," Smith said. "And one of the talents is my natural gift to play ball, to be an athlete. So, I still feel young. I don't have the mileage on my body. I still feel great when I go to the gym. I still feel young and fresh. So, if anything, I'm looking forward to what I'm going to be able to do out there."
Smith is excited about what he and the Cowboys can accomplish on the field in 2020. The team is counting on him to help bolster a pass rush that lost 2019 leading sacker Robert Quinn to the Chicago Bears in free agency.
Outside of Pro Bowler DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys have no real proven pass rushers and could use a boost from Smith.
"That just means I always work hard," Smith said. "I always play hard. I want the same thing out of my teammates and I'm sure those guys in the locker room feel the same way, and with that mentality, the sky is the limit. I think as long as we do what we need to do and everybody plays to their potential anything's possible."