Throughout NFL training camps, it’s not unusual for coaches to invite special guests to watch practice and speak to the team. It helps break up the doldrums of endless drills. It can be refreshing to hear from a new voice, too, as opposed to listening to the same talking points from the same coaches day in and day out. Last week, Matt Nagy brought in former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. This week, he invited another familiar face: Alex Smith.
Nagy was Smith’s quarterback coach from 2013-2015, and his offensive coordinator from 2015-2017, so you’d be hard pressed to find someone more familiar with Nagy’s offense than Smith. Realizing that, Andy Dalton made sure to take the opportunity to pick Smith’s brain while he was visiting Halas Hall.
“It’s been great,” Dalton said. “It’s fun to have him around and just to talk through things and what he sees on some of our plays that we are running, and also just to talk about life and how things are going. It’s just been really cool to have Alex here.”
But beyond the Xs and Os, Smith has also helped to inspire the Bears. After suffering a gruesome leg injury in 2018, he required 17 surgeries and four hospital stays over nine months. In an interview with ESPN, his wife described a dire situation where his infection not only threatened his leg, but threatened his life. Yet he pressed on, and not only made it to a point where he could walk again, but play again.
It’s not an understatement to call his return to the field, nearly two years later, heroic. So it’s no surprise either, that when Smith spoke to the team, he made an impression on some players.
“One thing that really stuck out to me was, he spoke on, ‘Are you living today?’” David Montgomery said. “What that basically meant to me was, am I taking advantage of the day? Or am I going out there, just wanting to get through it?”
But it’s not just carpe diem for Montgomery. As he continued to expound on his thinking, Montgomery went far beyond how he can maximize each day of practice.
“What you learn, getting older in this league, I realize getting into my third year, it’s came faster than I expected. So the only thing I can ever think is, whenever it’s time for my career to end, I won’t realize how fast it’ll go ‘til it’s gone. So I want to be sure, whatever opportunity I get to go out there, I can show my teammates and I can show myself that I belong to be out there.”
By now it’s clear, Montgomery absolutely belongs in the NFL. And it’s beginning to become clear that Smith still belongs in NFL locker rooms, too, as an inspiration, coach, or otherwise.