After 28 screws, three plates, seventeen surgeries, an infection of necrotizing fasciitis and the development of sepsis, Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith was able to return to the field roughly two years after he suffered a compound spiral fracture on a sack by J.J. Watt.
But as he recovered, Smith didn't think he would ever make it back on the field.
"In the back of my head, I never thought it was actually going to happen," he told Clay Skipper of GQ. "I put this crazy thing out there and was like, let's see if I can go get it. Really, a big part of me was skeptical, like, that's not going to happen anyway. I'm going to hit the wall before I get there."
He added that he did all of his rehab away from the team, and his return "definitely threw a wrench in the team's plan." Washington had mostly depended on Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins under center in 2019, and Smith said it was prepared to move on without him in 2020.
"They didn't see it, didn't want me there, didn't want me to be a part of it, didn't want me to be on the team, the roster, didn't want to give me a chance. Mind you, it was a whole new regime, they came in, I'm like the leftovers and I'm hurt and I'm this liability. Heck no, they didn't want me there. At that point, as you can imagine, everything I'd been through, I couldn't have cared less about all that. [laughs] Whether you like it or not, I'm giving this a go at this point."
He was placed on the physically unable to perform list during training camp.
Smith was named the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year after going from third-string quarterback to starter, helping to bring Washington to the postseason by winning five of his six starts. The 36-year-old threw for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns with eight interceptions, completing 66.7 percent of passes.
"It was really scary when I finally got the clearance right before camp from all the doctors. I got this big round of imaging done, and all the doctors—all the military doctors, all my doctors here in D.C.—were like, 'You're good to go.' I never thought I'd hear those words. They were like, 'If you want to play football again, you can do it.'"
Smith said he feels like he has "more left" regarding his football career, though Ron Rivera was noncommittal about the quarterback's future in D.C. as he heads into his second year at head coach. Smith is under contract for two more years, but the team can release him this offseason with a $10.8 million dead-cap hit.