The Dallas Cowboys took a calculated risk when drafting LSU linebacker Damone Clark in the fifth round. Clark is said to be one of the best linebackers in the 2022 draft class. In 2021, he ranked fourth in all of college football with 135 tackles and led LSU with 15.5 tackles for loss. His impressive showing not only caught the attention of NFL scouts but also earned him first-team All-SEC honors and a Butkus Award finalist nod.
The problem? After a stellar performance at the NFL Combine including scoring a 9.86 RAS (raw athletic score), an MRI taken at the combine showed that Clark had a herniated disk in his back. On March 24, NFL’s Tom Pelissero announced that the LSU star would be undergoing spinal fusion surgery. After this news, his draft stock quickly fell. Pelissero also reported that the recovery from his procedure would likely force him to sit out his entire rookie season.
Despite all of this, the Cowboys selected the linebacker to give him a chance. Once recovered, Clark is expected to be a fantastic overall NFL player. At LSU, he was chosen to wear the No. 18, which is a jersey number awarded to the person on the roster who most exemplifies leadership and excellence on and off the field. That’s certainly the type of person you want on your roster.
However, quotes from the Cowboys’ front office, particularly Stephen Jones, make it seem like Dallas believes Clark will play in 2022. Regardless of the fact that several analysts and reporters have stated that the LSU product will be out for the season, the Cowboys’ EVP doesn’t think so. In fact, Stephen Jones, who we’d like to add is not a doctor, said the linebacker could “absolutely” play this year. Apologies… but I don’t think I’d take medical advice or information from the Joneses.
Despite multiple reports, the Cowboys insist that Damone Clark, who just underwent spinal fusion surgery, could “absolutely” play in 2022
Jones also stated that Clark will start the year as a PUP player. PUP stands for “player unable to perform.” These players are not allowed to play nor practice during the first six weeks of the NFL season but can attend meetings and have use of the team’s medical facilities and equipment.
Here is another quote from Stephen Jones:
“He’ll miss six months from his time in surgery. This is a guy who works, works, works. Football is very important to him. Very committed to getting back, and he’s going to work through his injuries. If anything, he’s going to be one of those guys who’s ahead of schedule.”
We wholeheartedly believe that Clark is committed to football. But a commitment to football doesn’t heal spinal surgery. Let’s also remember that Michael Gallup initially had an overly positive prognosis after his ACL surgery. Gallup was initially expected to be back by August, but now he will likely miss a couple of games at the start of the season. Optimism is always appreciated. But, cautious and realistic optimism makes more sense.
Sometimes, all we can do isn’t enough. At the end of the day, a doctor will make the call rather than Jones. Until then, Clark told reporters he’s ready to start rehab in his initial press conference.
“I’ve got to attack the rehab in order for me to get back on the field. So I know what it is that I have to do and I’m going to do it. The more locked in and tuned in I am with rehab, the better outcome it’ll be for me.”
As much as we’d love to see this linebacker take the field in 2022, we aren’t very inclined to take recovery timelines from the Joneses too seriously.