ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith stressed that he still wants to play again, despite an injury more than a year ago that remains career-threatening. He also said he has no interest in a front-office role.
Smith spent all season on injured reserve while rehabbing the broken fibula and tibia suffered on Nov. 18, 2018 vs. the Houston Texans. Smith endured numerous surgeries. But his desire to play remains strong.
“Without a doubt,” Smith said. “Still [going] to continue to push this as far as it goes. I still have dreams of getting back to where I was and getting back out there. This has been obviously a crazy ride with a lot of unforeseen turns, but without a doubt that’s still my goal.”
Smith spent this season watching games in owner Dan Snyder’s box and was often seen with him before and after games — on the road as well. It led to speculation that Smith’s influence was growing, which led some to wonder if he’d eventually end up in the front office.
“Has there ever been a GM and quarterback at the same time?” Smith said, laughing. “I love all the rumor mill and all the stuff that circulates out there.”
But, Smith said, he sat with Snyder because he still wasn’t allowed on the sidelines because of his leg. Doctors were afraid he’d get accidentally hit and suffer a setback.
“It just wasn’t safe for me to be down there,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of everything that they’ve given me throughout this process. A lot of it goes unnoticed. It doesn’t get put out there, for what they do for all the guys on the team, but especially me, and what’s happened over the last few years. … but I have no aspirations other than getting back on the field and playing football again.”
Those close to Smith say he’s always been aware of the difficult road he faces to return. But, they said, he has always been committed to at least trying to make it back. In the past two months of the season he was on the practice field more, mostly side-snapping the ball to the quarterbacks during some individual drills. He’s been in meetings. And, at times, he’s been seen on the field throwing. It was mostly from a stationary position, but he had to plant on his right leg and throw. However, other times Smith would move around and throw. He wears a black compression sleeve on his right leg.
“Progressing,” Smith said of his rehab. “That’s probably the best way to put that at this point. Still progressing, which I’m thankful for. Haven’t hit a wall yet and still moving forward.”
The problem is, there’s no blueprint for Smith’s recovery. Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann did suffer a similar injury in 1985, and that ended his career. Both endured infections and numerous surgeries. Both were considered mobile quarterbacks. Still, there’s not a lot of examples for Smith to follow.
“That’s been a little bit of the unique circumstances of my injury, that there isn’t really a blueprint,” Smith said. “There isn’t someone that I can follow that’s had this, which is also, for me, the intriguing thing of the challenge, that this [road] hasn’t really been traveled before. I do embrace that challenge and being able to overcome it. We’re rolling with everybody that’s an expert on this in the country and trying to figure that out and map it out.”
“A lot of the extra stuff, extra things, kind of dialing in his week, the work week, how he’s preparing himself — I think those are things as a young player that you kind of fine-tune,” Smith said. “You’ve got to find what works for you and how you prepare, your mindset, things like that. …and just being there for him, being around.”
Haskins finished strong — throwing for a combined 394 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games — so he’d likely enter 2020 as the starting quarterback. Still, if Smith did return, he’d be back in a familiar role. He finished his time in San Francisco as Colin Kaepernick‘s backup. And Kansas City drafted Patrick Mahomes while Smith was still the starter. He helped prepare him, knowing Mahomes would soon have his job.
But, for now, competing against Haskins isn’t high on Smith’s list. It’s about returning to the field.
“His path and trajectory and mine are not conflicting each other, at all,” Smith said. “Any kind of narrative of that is just not real. My focus is singularly on getting back to where I was and even better, and that doesn’t mean I can’t also be a good teammate. Those things aren’t exclusive from one another. I’ve learned that along the road. I’ve been so appreciative of the guys that have helped me along the way when I was young and learned from a lot of different guys, and I do feel like it’s my job as a teammate to do that for everybody — not just Dwayne, but especially him, too.”