Alex Smith: Washington never wanted me to return to the team after leg injury

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Pete Grathoff
·3 min read
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Former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was the feel-good story of the 2020 NFL season.

Smith returned from a horrific leg injury that nearly cost him his life in 2018 and led the Washington Football Team to the NFC East division title.

Based on that, Smith won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award.

But Smith believes Washington never wanted him back last year after he missed the entire 2019 season.

In an interview with GQ’s Clay Skipper, Smith said a “very small group of people” thought he would actually make it back to the playing field. That apparently didn’t include Washington, which had a new head coach in Ron Rivera.

“When I decided to come back, I definitely threw a wrench in the team’s plan,” Smith said. “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. Whether you like it or not, I’m giving this a go at this point.”

Smith’s doctors cleared him to return to the team but Washington put him on the Physically Unable to Perform list. A Washington Post story noted Rivera told reporters that Washington’s coaching staff wanted to “see how Smith’s leg responded to ‘football movements’ before they felt comfortable clearing him for a return.”

That didn’t sit well with Smith, who emphasized his displeasure with an expletive during the GQ interview.

“I mean, they tried to put me on PUP for two weeks, then they tried to IR me. I felt like I still hadn’t had my fair shake at that point,” Smith said. “I wanted to see if I could play quarterback and play football, and I feel like I hadn’t been given that opportunity yet to find that out. It’s like getting this close to the end line of a marathon and they’re telling you that you can’t finish the race.

“It’s like, (forget) that. I’m finishing this thing. At least I’m going to see if I can. So, I’m thankful we worked through all that stuff but no, it wasn’t like open arms coming back after two years. Like I said, new coaches, new faces, and I think I definitely surprised a lot of people that never thought I would even be trying it.”

Smith apparently opened some eyes in training camp because he was Washington’s third quarterback at the start of the season, and replaced an injured Kyle Allen during a game against the Rams on Oct. 11.

Washington started the season with a 2-6 record, but won four straight with Smith at quarterback. A calf injury sidelined him for a few weeks, but he started the season finale, a 20-14 win over the Eagles that wrapped up Washington’s division title.

So what’s ahead for Smith? He hasn’t ruled out playing again in 2021.

“Football-wise, I got more left,” he told GQ. “I got more to get there too. So I really do really wanna get in the meat of this offseason and see where I’m at and push it. I want to push my body harder. I want to push my leg harder. The harder I push it, it does respond. So I kind of want to go do that. At some point, I’m obviously going to have to sit down with my wife and have a very real conversation and, do we want to do this? She deserves a ton of input. So we’ll see.”

You can read the entire interview here.