Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith will be cleared for football activity and be activated off the physically unable to perform list, a source said Saturday night, capping a remarkable recovery from a leg injury that nearly cost him his life.
Smith is expected to be activated off the PUP list Sunday, the source said, putting him in line to be on the field when Washington begins full-pad work at training camp Tuesday. His wife, Elizabeth, posted a video on Instagram earlier Saturday night of Smith’s family spraying him with champagne. She wrote, “Hard work pays off! Lots to celebrate in the Smith house tonight.”
Smith, 36, broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg in a November 2018 game against Houston. Because of an infection, Smith required 17 surgeries, and doctors worried not only about the possibility of his leg being amputated but also feared for his life. But Smith vowed to return, and while team officials acknowledged the massive odds he faced, they always returned to one comment: “If anyone can do it, Alex can.”
Smith was featured in an ESPN documentary detailing his journey. Even after seeing that, there was still extreme doubt about whether he’d be able to return, with one member of the organization saying there hadn’t been much talk about the possibility of him being on the roster. Coach Ron Rivera would include him when discussing the quarterbacks, but privately the discussion about the quarterback battle focused on Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen.
But on July 24, before the start of training camp, Smith told ESPN’s Stephania Bell that he had been cleared by his personal doctors for full activity; one of his doctors also is Washington’s head team physician, Robin West. But Washington’s staff wanted to see more before it was comfortable clearing him for football activity. Smith worked off to the side with trainers while the other quarterbacks performed drills on the field. Rivera said that he was pleasantly surprised by how Smith looked while doing agility work and other drills.
Washington’s main concern has been Smith’s ability to protect himself. His mobility had been a key part of his game in the past, and team brass wanted to make sure he could still move in the pocket well enough to not always put himself in trouble.
Another source said Smith had a really good week last week, putting him on pace to come off the PUP list.
Rivera also said several times that if Smith were to be activated, he’d be included in the quarterback competition.
Washington is not the same team Smith quarterbacked in 2018. Then, it was a more veteran team led by coach Jay Gruden. Though Smith had modest stats — 10 touchdowns and an 85.7 passer rating — and was struggling to master the offense, Washington was 6-3 when he was injured. Teammates credited his leadership and his ability to avoid trouble — only five interceptions — as a key reason for that success. At season’s end, multiple players bemoaned the loss of his leadership.
In 13 years, Smith has started 161 games and thrown 193 touchdowns and 101 interceptions. The No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft spent seven seasons with San Francisco before being traded to Kansas City.
The Chiefs dealt him to Washington in the 2018 offseason, opening the door for Patrick Mahomes to start. Mahomes has credited Smith for providing a blueprint on how to prepare to play quarterback in the NFL. Smith also became a mentor to Haskins last season. But even while discussing his impact on Haskins, Smith said he could have a bigger impact if he were actually preparing to play and not just dispensing advice.
With Smith entering the quarterback competition, Washington will be faced with deciding between youth with Haskins — or even Allen — and veteran leadership with Smith. Washington drafted Haskins with the 15th overall pick in 2019. He pleased the organization with his offseason — both in terms of getting in shape and with the leadership he displayed.