ASHBURN - Alex Smith hit a major milestone in his comeback on Thursday when he handled passing drills with a pass rush coming at him.
It wasn't a full simulation with 11v11 competition, but rather 9v9. That means no offensive tackles or defensive ends were on the field but Smith faced pressure from defensive tackles.
Smith took three snaps in that situation and fired three passes, and was forced to evade pressure in the pocket and show legit footwork to move and make throws. Washington Football defensive end Nate Orchard even jumped offsides on one rep.
The veteran quarterback made one obvious completion to tight end Richard Rodgers and one ugly overthrow to receiver Cam Sims on the sideline. His first throw looked good but it's unclear if rookie wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden held on to the completion as he hit the ground.
The stats aren't what's important here.
What's important is Smith facing a pass rush.
Even knowing he wouldn't get hit - QBs don't get hit in August anywhere in the NFL - but the fact that Smith was on the field against live defenders is slightly mind blowing. It's been nearly two years since Smith faced live action on a football field, and his injury and recovery has been widely documented.
Every step of Smith's comeback has been incredible, but this might be the most remarkable.
To this point Smith had just worked by himself or with pass catchers. That's fun to watch on social media but not close to real football.
9v9 drills in mid-August aren't real football either, but it's a giant step towards real football.
Smith spoke on Wednesday and said he had no timeline when he was going to be able to work in full 11v11 drills but he "would know" when the time is right.
That time is coming. Thursday was a big step towards it.
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Alex Smith faces pass rush in biggest step yet towards completing comeback originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington