Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith nearly lost his leg because of a flesh-eating bacteria that developed after he had surgery to repair the compound fracture he suffered during a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018.
In a first-person story told to ESPN's Stefania Bell, Smith's wife, Elizabeth, recalled doctors discovering her husband was suffering from "necrotizing fasciitis" and had a rare bacteria called Aeromonas hydrophila in his bloodstream that is usually found in freshwater or brackish water.
"So Alex has a flesh-eating bacteria that's eating away at his leg," Elizabeth said. "He's septic and, essentially, dying. We're being inundated with medical language. Family, friends, everybody is on high emotion."
The change in his leg was rapid, with Elizabeth noting one of the doctors unwrapped Alex's surgical bandages to discover his leg was black with "huge" blisters after saying it "looked normal" just a few hours earlier.
Smith was injured when he was sacked by Kareem Jackson and J.J. Watt in the third quarter of Washington's 23-21 loss on Nov. 18, 2018.
Per Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, in October 2019, Smith revealed at the Inova Sports Medicine event he needed 17 surgeries on his leg, with nearly half of them dedicated to removing tissue due to the infection he suffered.
At one point in the process, doctors said Alex's injury was "more comparable to a military blast injury."
Smith sat out the entire 2019 season to rehab, but he told Jeremy Schapp of Outside the Lines (h/t Bell) in February that he hopes to resume his football career.
"There's enough there that I can go out there and play. ... Knowing that, yeah, failure is a possibility. ... I need to prove that I can come back and play quarterback in the NFL, and if I can do that, that would be great and it'll get figured out," he said.
Smith is under contract with Washington through the 2022 season. He threw for 2,180 yards, 10 touchdowns and a 61.5 completion percentage in 10 games during the 2018 season.