Alex Smith

Ex-49er Alex Smith cleared for full football activities after 2018 injury

alexsmith49ersgetty.jpg
Getty Images

Ex-49er Alex Smith cleared for full football activities after 2018 injury

The unbelievable odyssey that has been former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith's NFL career got some positive news last week.

After fracturing his tibula and fibula on a devastating sack back in 2018 with the Washington NFL Team, Smith has been cleared to resume full football activities.

Smith has spent the past two-plus years rehabilitating and recovering from an injury that required him to undergo 17 surgeries and nearly lose his right leg. His journey back to football was chronicled by ESPN in a documentary called "Project 11," for which Smith was shooting an update when he shared the news.

"Everyone was in agreement that my bone was in a really good place," Smith told ESPN 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."

[RELATED: Seahawks gain NFC West ground on 49ers in Adams trade]

The QB was drafted by the 49ers at No. 1 overall in 2005, in a relentlessly second-guessed choice with future MVP Aaron Rodgers also being on the board that year. Smith battled through a myriad of coaching and personnel changes in San Francisco, but was the team's starter until 2012. After an injury, then-49ers coach Jim Harbaugh turned the reins over to young backup Colin Kaepernick, who led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in a thrilling playoff run.

Even after being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs before the 2013 season, Smith was their QB1 for a handful of seasons, before eventual NFL and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes overtook him in 2018.

Smith finally landed with Washington in 2018, starting 10 games before the injury. Given that he's the franchise quarterback for a franchise facing a myriad of public relations issues over the team's former "Redskins" moniker and a significant number of sexual assault allegations from former team employees, Smith was asked, and spoke candidly about the organization.

"We're football players and out on the field, but there are a lot of parts of the building that go into game day and a season and the whole business side of the building, and to hear that some of this had been going on, I certainly don't think players ever knew about it. But it's not something any of us are proud of, and it needs to be changed," Smith said.

"I have a wife, a daughter, two sisters, and to ever think about something like that happening to them disgusts me and pisses me off; so hopefully, we get to where we need to be -- an environment and a culture that's acceptable for everybody and lets everybody thrive and is safe for everybody."

Smith still has a long way to go before he can step back onto the gridiron with his teammates for an NFL game, but his progress so far after such a gruesome injury has been nothing short of inspiring.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Patrick Mahomes 'really' influenced by ex-49er Alex Smith, Steve Young says

Patrick Mahomes 'really' influenced by ex-49er Alex Smith, Steve Young says

Alex Smith's NFL career has been a rollercoaster to say the least. After being drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers in 2005, Smith battled through numerous coordinator and coaching changes in San Francisco before eventually being usurped as the team's starting quarterback by Colin Kaepernick after an injury in 2012.

Smith eventually was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, where he performed admirably until another up-and-coming gunslinger once again overtook Smith for the starting QB job in 2018. That gunslinger was Patrick Mahomes, who went on to win the NFL MVP that season and led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory over the 49ers in his second year at the helm.

Mahomes' skills are otherworldly, but legendary 49ers quarterback Steve Young wants to make sure people don't forget about the impact Mahomes' predecessor in Kansas City had on the signal-caller.

"Alex is somebody that really had a great influence on Patrick Mahomes," Young told KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" on Wednesday. "Patrick was reckless and wild coming out of college, but he had all that talent. If you're reckless and wild coming out of college and you wanted to come see a pro, who else would you want to be around than Alex Smith?"

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

As Young also mentioned, Mahomes often has praised Smith for helping him adjust and adapt to the NFL.

"He was extremely important," Mahomes said during Super Bowl Week in January. "The way he went about his business and being a pro's pro, a great quarterback and also a great human being. He taught me a ton of just the process and how to blueprint your week and how to game plan. And then, how to read coverages by the little things. Maybe how the defensive line lines up and I think it helped me out a lot in the early part of my career, even still to this day of being able to get those invaluable lessons from him."

Chiefs coach Andy Reid echoed Mahomes' sentiments about Smith.

"Alex Smith was phenomenal," Reid said in January. "He wasn't asked to do this, but he let Patrick into his world. Patrick handled it the right way. He was humbled around Alex. He didn't try to overstep his bounds with Alex when he competed. With that, Alex let him kind of tag along on the field and off the field, showed him how to be a pro. How to study, your diet, your workout plan, family, how you work your family into the National Football League to be a great player in the National Football League.

"I joke about it, but it's true. Patrick couldn't pay Alex enough for what he gave him with the experience."

[RELATED: Five bold predictions for 49ers' 2020 NFL season]

Mahomes recently inked a 10-year extension with the Chiefs with the potential to be worth a staggering $503 million, so he probably could throw a few bucks Smith's way.

He's destined to be among the NFL's best quarterbacks of all time, but don't forget that Mahomes' rise in the NFL was shaped in part by Smith's guidance.

Colin Kaepernick was 49ers' most valuable player of decade, per PFF

Colin Kaepernick was 49ers' most valuable player of decade, per PFF

When head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took over control of the 49ers in 2017, they told quarterback Colin Kaepernick that he would be released if he didn't elect to opt out of his contract. Kaepernick indeed chose to back out of his deal, and the signal-caller hasn't played a down in the NFL since.

Kaepernick was coming off a season in which he had completed 59 percent of his passes and thrown 16 touchdowns with four interceptions over 12 games. While general managers tend to want to bring in their own talent at key positions like QB, Pro Football Focus' version of the "Wins Above Replacement" statistic shows that Kaepernick was an extremely valuable player during his time in San Francisco.

As you can see from the 49ers' top five, the stat seems to favor quarterbacks. According to the website's in-depth breakdown of PFF WAR, the model does these things in analyzing statistics:

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

  • Determine how good a given player was during a period of time (generally a season) using PFF grades;
  • Map a player’s production to a “wins” value for his team using the relative importance of each facet of play;
  • Simulate a team’s expected performance with a player of interest and with an average player participating identically in his place. Take the difference in expected wins (e.g., Wins Above Average);
  • Determine the average player with a given participation profile’s wins above replacement player, assuming a team of replacement-level players is a 3-13 team;
  • Add the terms in the last two calculations to get that player’s WAR.


The conversation around Kaepernick's absence from NFL rosters over the past three seasons has reignited in light of protests around the country following George Floyd's tragic death while in Minneapolis Police custody. Kaepernick sued the NFL claiming that the league blacklisted him because of his choice to kneel during the national anthem. The NFL settled out of court with Kaepernick in February of 2019.

[RELATED: Colin Kaepernick could help five NFL teams if they’d give him contract]

Kaepernick did lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, breaking the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in one game (181). In 69 career games with the 49ers, Kaepernick threw for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns.

Vernon Davis had 454 catches and 55 touchdowns as a Niner after being drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Davis was traded to the Denver Broncos for draft compensation during the 2015 season, but was a sensational pass-catcher during his time in the Bay Area. He also was on the receiving end of one of the franchise's most iconic moments of the 21st century.

The website's description also indicates that players who line up further away from the center of the line of scrimmage tend to score higher (i.e. wide receivers, defensive backs, tight ends) which is why Joe Staley's place on this list shows just how valuable the left tackle was during his 13-year tenure in San Francisco.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in December that the league has "moved on" from Kaepernick, but this conversation doesn't seem to be going anywhere for the league's senior leadership.