Ron Rivera: Alex Smith must be able to 'protect himself' before he can return to football

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Ethan Cadeaux
·2 min read
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Earlier this month, ESPN released the 'Project 11' documentary, which gave viewers an inside look at all the obstacles and adversity Redskins quarterback Alex Smith has had to overcome since he suffered a life-threatening leg injury in November of 2018.

Despite undergoing 17 surgeries and nearly needing to have his leg amputated, Smith explained during the documentary that his end goal is still to play football once again. The quarterback also told the same to local media at the Redskins locker room cleanout in December. Stephania Bell, the lead reporter for the film, also said she wouldn't be surprised if Smith played again.

Ron Rivera was asked about Smith's recovery on Tuesday, and the new Redskins head coach explained one thing that has to happen in order for Smith's goal to become a reality.

"The one thing that he and I talked about, more than anything else, is he's got to be able to protect himself out on the football field before anything can happen, before we can allow him back on the field," Rivera told NBC Sports' Mike Tirico on Lunch Talk Live.

Earlier this offseason, Rivera told ESPN980 that he didn't "want to forget Alex Smith" in a potential quarterback competition come the fall. 

"Here's a guy that's doing everything he can to come back, and if Alex can come back and be the player that he was we have a good situation, we have competition at that position," Rivera said in January.

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The head coach explained on Tuesday that he hopes by the end of training camp, he'll know whether or not Smith is able to play.

"We'll see. You just never know," Rivera said. "We'll find out hopefully sometime in late August."

Project 11 concluded with footage of Smith going through on-field workouts and throwing the football. While he certainly didn't look game-ready, the quarterback has come a long way from where he was just a few months prior, when he was spotted at Redskins practices helping the quarterbacks any way he could from the sideline.

After seeing everything that the quarterback has gone through over the past 18 months, it may be hard to imagine Smith ever playing in the NFL again. But Rivera has learned not to count the quarterback out on a potential return.

"In getting to know who he is, I don't doubt him," Rivera said. 

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Ron Rivera: Alex Smith must be able to 'protect himself' before he can return to football originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington