Every NFL player likely has at least some knowledge of the debilitating leg injury former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith suffered back in 2018, which kept him off the field until Week 5 of this season and nearly cost him his life. As NBC Sports Bay Area's Takeo Spikes explains on "Behind the Mask," Smith's medical background doesn't affect how opposing players treat Smith once he steps between the lines on the field.
"Regardless of whatever may have happened in the past, we understand if we see you on the football field, you're healthy," Spikes said. "As a defensive player, guys are not going out there intentionally trying to hurt anybody. But what I will say, they're not going to pull off.
"Defensive guys, they're going to continue to fly around, make plays and try to separate man from ball, that's the point of the game. No. 2, they have a family to feed as well, and they're going to go out and try to play their best ballgame. Why? Because they remember what you do in December, and a lot of guys are playing for valuable roster spots going into next spring."
Smith got thrown right into the fire in his first game back, as he entered midgame against human wrecking ball Aaron Donald and a physical Los Angeles Rams defense. Over six games this season, Smith has been sacked 18 times, but hasn't suffered any kind of additional injury requiring him to miss time.
The former 49ers' No. 1 overall pick did run into a bit of a scary situation in his most recent game, as another player's cleats punctured Smith's ankle, causing blood to "gush" through his sock. Smith's remarkable perseverance showed up however, as he led the Washington Football Team to a shocking upset over the previously unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers.
Opponents surely have to respect Smith for his resilience and determination in returning to the field in an NFL game, when many never believed he ever would again. But as Spikes emphasized, just like Smith, the players who are on the other side of the ball are paid to get after the quarterback and make plays, won't treat any opponent differently regardless of their past injuries.
Expect the 49ers' defense to get after Smith early and often on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.