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Alex Smith says Washington Football Team coaching staff was 'patronizing' during comeback

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When Alex Smith returned to the Washington Football Team for training camp last year, the coaching staff put him through tasks such as carrying extra weight and pushing sleds.

Not only had Smith never done those things during his previous 15 years in the NFL, according to a Sports Illustrated profile of the recently retired quarterback, he was less than two years removed from the gruesome leg injury that nearly ended his career and subsequent life-threatening infection.

Smith, who was named the AP's NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2020, told Sports Illustrated he found the coaching staff "patronizing" during the early parts of last season as he tried to prove he was ready to play again, even after doctors had cleared him.

“I’d rather have somebody right in my face say, 'What are you thinking?' ” Smith told SI. “It pissed me off.”

Dr. Robin West, the former WFT orthopedic doctor, told SI that coaches would ask, "Are you sure you're clearing him?"

“I got very little support,” West told Sports Illustrated.

Coaches would bring up that doctors said Smith had almost died and lost his leg. "Why would he want to (play)?" they asked.

“That’s not your decision,” West said was her response.

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Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.
Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) passes the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.

Smith's father, Doug, told Sports Illustrated he thinks the coaches "sabotaged" the comeback.

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera, in a statement to SI through a team spokesperson, said he "was scared to death about putting (Alex) back out there."

"That is something I struggled with every day. It’s unfortunate that he feels we patronized him because I can tell you that was not our intention," the statement continued. "At the end of the day, I commend Alex because he proved everyone wrong and exceeded any reasonable expectations that anyone had set for him. He not only made it back onto the field but led us to the playoffs. It was a truly remarkable feat."

Smith returned to action during Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams. He would lead Washington to a 5-1 record as a starter, helping the team capture the NFC East crown. Taylor Heinicke started the wild-card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Smith announced his retirement Monday despite conversations with other NFL teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team could have reunited Smith with Urban Meyer, who coached him at Utah, while allowing him to serve as a mentor to Trevor Lawrence, the presumed No. 1 overall pick in next week's draft.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alex Smith: Washington Football Team 'patronizing' during comeback