Alex Smith was placed on Washington's active roster on Sunday, overcoming one of the final hurdles in his near two-year recovery from a gruesome, life-threatening leg injury.
However, shortly after Smith was cleared to return to football activities, the conversation about the quarterback shifted from a remarkable recovery story to how does Smith fit in the Washington QB room?'
Is Smith truly ready to play? If he is, will he start over Dwayne Haskins? Would he accept the role of being a backup?
On Monday, Smith addressed many of these questions when he sat down with Washington's Senior VP of Media and Content, Julie Donaldson. And in the interview, he said he doesn't believe his return to football conflicts with Haskins' career path.
"I think to twist that he and I, are career paths are somehow against each other, I think is definitely not the truth," Smith said. "He has his path out in front of him to try and reach his potential, and he has a ton of it. He knows that. It's about him, going out there every single day, and getting better."
Washington head coach Ron Rivera has yet to name Haskins as the team's starter, many assume the 23-year-old will be the quarterback to take the field when the Burgundy and Gold host the Eagles on September 13. Rivera has challenged Haskins multiple times this offseason to take command of the job, and thus far, the second-year passer has answered the bell.
Yet, Rivera did say last week that if Smith was able to return, he would immediately enter the mix at QB. Now, that has happened. But for Smith, right now, he's just focused on helping out the team in any way he can.
"For me, it's helping in whatever way I can," Smith said. "If it's me sitting back there and putting my coaching hat on, so to speak, when he's taking his reps, it's like that. But when I get my reps, maybe it's showing him a different style of how to do that.
"I learned a lot from quarterbacks I've played with, and it wasn't necessarily what they told me," Smith continued. "It's watching them play where I learned the most. Watching them how they do things, how they manage their game. And sometimes, I feel like that can be the best teacher."
Even when Smith was injured last season, he was spotted multiple times at Washington practices, helping the quarterbacks. Haskins has praised Smith multiple times throughout his tenure in Washington and has even called him a "mentor."
The mentor cap is not a new hat for Smith. In Kansas City, he had Patrick Mahomes sit behind him for one season. Mahomes, of course, has taken over the NFL since becoming the Chiefs' starter, winning league MVP and a Super Bowl in his first two years since taking over for Smith. To this day, Mahomes still credits Smith for much of his early success in the NFL.
Make no mistake about it, though. Smith hasn't come this far to just serve as a mentor to the young Washington passers. The 36-year-old has fought this hard to return to football because he simply wants to prove to himself that he can still play the quarterback position.
With Smith back, there's now an added layer of competition in the quarterback room. And Smith thinks that's a good thing, and he hopes the rest of the room will be like him and embrace the competition.
I think you can have -- in a healthy situation -- I think you want competition," Smith said. "Especially in the quarterback room, I think you have to have it. It has to be part of your culture. It has to be what you do, day in and day out.
"Listen, no one is going to win every single time in everything," Smith continued. "I think it's about embracing challenges, embracing competition. Whether we're playing the crossbar game out there after practice, whether it's a team rep or a game. I think it's about taking on competition with the right attitude, the right mentality."
Even before the injury, Smith's career has not been the smoothest ride.
In San Francisco, where he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, he didn't make the playoffs until his seventh season as a starter. Over that span, he had won, then lost, then regained the starting QB job again, only to lose it once more to Colin Kaepernick. In Kansas City, Smith knew his time was running out when they drafted Mahomes.
In short, Smith has been through a lot, just on the field. And based on his past experiences, he thinks that in order for Washington to have success at the quarterback position, Smith says the group must support one another, regardless of who the quarterback taking the field on Sundays is.
"For us as well, it's about supporting each other, whoever is out there," Smith said. "I've been in a lot of situations. Crazy situations. I've been around a lot of young guys. With that, when I get my opportunity I go out there and compete my tail off. When I'm not, I try to help these guys. We've got three young quarterbacks in the quarterback room, and they all have a bright future. For me, I put dad hat on as well. I feel like I can do both. It isn't too hard to do."
Smith knows that he's already exceeded many expectations by just getting to the point he's currently at in his recovery. Yet, he's not thinking about his lasting legacy at all, just trying to take the process slow and enjoy each day.
"I'm being honest with you, the last thing I'm thinking about is my legacy," he said. "I'm trying to live in the moment and make the most of this."