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Alex Smith retires from NFL after completing remarkable comeback from leg injury

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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Alex Smith completed his incredible NFL comeback story this fall. The veteran quarterback will let that serve as the cap to his playing career.

Smith announced on Monday via Instagram that he was retiring from the NFL after 16 years in the league.

The announcement comes just two months after Smith, 36, was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year for 2020 for his return to action with the Washington Football Team. After suffering a compound fracture to his right tibia and fibula in a November 2018 game against the Houston Texans, Smith underwent 17 surgeries and sat out the entire 2019 season. He also developed sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication from an infection, and had to wear a brace to combat his drop foot.

“Two years ago I was stuck in a wheelchair, staring down at my mangled leg, wondering if I would ever be able to go on a walk again or play with my kids in the yard,” Smith said in a video. “ ... But football wouldn’t let me give up. Because, no, this isn’t just a game. It’s not just what happens between those white lines on a Sunday afternoon. It’s about the challenges and the commitment they require. It’s about how hard and how far you can push yourself. It’s about the bond between those 53 guys in the locker room and everybody else in the organization. It’s about fully committing yourself to something bigger.”

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Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) celebrates with Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) after the two connected on a touchdown pass against the New York Giants in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field.
Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) celebrates with Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) after the two connected on a touchdown pass against the New York Giants in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field.

After continuing his recovery during the early portion of last season, Smith stepped in for Washington and started six games, helping lead the way to an NFC East title while compiling a 5-1 record and throwing for 1,582 yards.

“Even though I’ve got plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I’ve got, I can’t wait to see what else is possible,” he said in a video posted on his Instagram account. “But first, I’m going to take a little time to enjoy a few of those walks with my wife. And my kids have no idea what’s coming for them in the backyard.”

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft out of Utah, Smith was compared throughout his career to Green Bay Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the future three-time NFL MVP whom the San Francisco 49ers bypassed with the top selection. Before the 2013 season, Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom he would earn three Pro Bowl nods. But when the Chiefs selected Patrick Mahomes in 2017, Smith would remain started for just one more year before being traded to Washington.

Smith was released by Washington in March. Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, who coached Smith at Utah, said he was interested in having the veteran join the team as a backup. Smith confirmed Monday he visited Jacksonville and considered signing with the Jaguars.

“I wanted him here,” Meyer said on The Michael Irvin Podcast prior to Smith's retirement announcement. “You know, we talked to him about joining (the team). He’s had a tough injury. And I would tell people this when people didn’t know how tough he was, he’s one of the toughest cats I’ve ever been around."

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alex Smith retires from NFL after incredible comeback season