Washington placed quarterback Alex Smith on the physically unable to perform list after conducting physicals for its rookies and quarterbacks on Monday.
The team placed linebacker Reuben Foster on PUP as well.
Smith has not yet been cleared by the team for football activity; it wants to see what he’s able to do on the field before taking him off the PUP list and increasing his football activity. Smith will work with trainers and the strength and conditioning staff during practices. He will not participate in individual or team work with his teammates while on the PUP list.
In putting him on PUP before camp starts, Washington can take time to fully evaluate Smith — and leave him there once the season begins. Players can’t be placed on PUP after training camp begins.
The fact that Smith will be on the field is a big win for the veteran entering his 14th season. He suffered a broken fibula and tibia in his right leg in November 2018 and required 17 surgeries. Smith would be the first player to make a full recovery from such an injury.
On Friday, ESPN’s Stephania Bell reported that Smith’s team of doctors studied another round of imaging, including X-rays and a CT scan last week. This group, which included Washington’s head team physician, Robin West, cleared Smith to return to football. One of the other doctors in the group was Dr. Joseph Alderete from the Center for the Intrepid.
“Everyone was in agreement that my bone was in a really good place,” Smith told Bell on Friday. “I had healed a lot. They said that given the combination of the rod and where I was with the healing process, I had zero limitations and could even resume some football activities.
“To hear them say that, from a life standpoint, they wouldn’t restrict me from doing anything — I could go skiing or snowboarding tomorrow if I wanted — then on top of that, to get the green light that I could practice, get contact, that I had healed up, that much was pretty wild to hear. I didn’t know if I would ever hear those words.”
Smith’s contract runs through the 2022 season. If Washington releases him this year, it would count as a combined $20 million against the cap over the next two seasons, assuming that the team collects on the $12 million insurance policy that would provide cap relief.
But Washington will need to see how Smith, 36, can move on a football field before making any further decisions about his status. For the past year, while team sources acknowledged the long road Smith faced, they’d often use the phrase: “If anyone can do it, Alex can.”
However, since his injury, team president Bruce Allen, who orchestrated the trade to acquire Smith in the 2018 offseason, was fired. So, too, was coach Jay Gruden. But many members of the front office remain, and Smith developed a good relationship with owner Dan Snyder. Smith also helped mentor then-rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. last season, especially in the second half of the season.
Haskins is expected to be Washington’s starting quarterback this season. Washington also has Kyle Allen on the roster. If Smith is to rejoin the group, he knows the work ahead.
“For me, all eyes are on practice,” Smith said Friday. “That’s the next step. I have to go prove to myself and certainly to everybody else that I can go practice.”
Foster is trying to come back from a torn ACL suffered in May 2019 that also led to nerve damage in his foot.