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. Smith was spotted leaving the locker room after practice and did not appear to be limping.
Smith's injury dominated the conversations during the Blue Carpet Season Kickoff event at Ford Center Thursday.
Dak Prescott expressed regret that he did not comfort Smith more Wednesday night at practice because he thought it was a twisted knee. But he also understands the games will go on and drew a parallel to the start of his career.
"I mean seven years ago I was in a similar position (after Tony Romo was injured in the preseason), so being the optimistic man I am, just having a lot of hope in the next man standing up and understanding (it's) my responsibility in getting that guy ready, whoever it may be, to do the best job he can and help this team win whatever it may be."
Ezekiel Elliott admitted it was difficult to move on to the next play in practice after Smith left because of his importance to the team.
"We've got a good, young group of guys," Elliott said. "That O line room has had a great culture since I've been here and I've got faith that those guys will be able to step up."
The loss of Smith, an eight-time Pro Bowler and protector of 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.
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.