The progress he’s making is fantastic and the effort to come back is admirable, but should Alex Smith really be trying to play again?
On November 18, 2018 against the Houston Texans, the career and life of Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith changed forever. A broken fibula and tibia in his right leg, surgery to fix those injuries and a bunch more surgeries to clear infections, put his life on the ropes at times and rendered his future as a football player moot.
ESPN released another of their great documentaries chronicling Smith’s situation, and his progress, last week. Project 11, a nod to the number Smith has worn in his career, showed graphic images of Smith’s injured leg with all the surgeries that were done to remove tissue and clear the infections he had. And that leaves out the severity of his leg injury itself, which included compound and spiral fractures and the wearing of an “external fixator”.
Note: some images in the video below are graphic.
Smith turned 36 on Thursday. His wife Elizabeth posted a video of him working out.
Smith has a comeback on his mind, and new Redskins’ head coach Ron Rivera has not ruled him out of anything if he’s healthy.
“I also don’t want to forget Alex Smith,” Rivera said. “Here’s a guy that’s doing everything he can to come back, and if Alex can come back and be the player that he was we have a good situation; we have competition at that position.”
Upon being acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs, Smith signed a four-year, $94 million contract extension with the Redskins ($55 million guaranteed at signing, $71 million guaranteed). He is counting $21.4 million against the salary cap for Washington this year, with $32.2 million in dead money if they cut him. So it makes sense for them to see how his comeback attempt plays out right now, then re-assess next March when the cap implications aren’t so punitive.
Any attempt to tell an athlete not to try to play again when he has his eye on it is destined to be fruitless. But Smith would take on a lot of risk if he took the field again, due to the nature of his injury and a complicated recovery even without the bushel of surgeries he had to have. Quite frankly, his right leg is probably never going to be as good as it was prior to the injury.
According to Spotrac, and not counting 2020, Smith has $173.725 million in cash earnings during his NFL career. So he does not need to keep playing for money.
Smith was involved in Washington’s quarterback meetings last year, and Dwayne Haskins has acknowledged his impact as a mentor.
If Smith can’t get back on the football field to play, for the Redskins or another team, he may have a future in coaching if he wants it. For now though, the effort to come back is inspiring with the behind the scenes look we now have to show how far he’s already come.