After returning to the lineup last Sunday against the Eagles, Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith was unable to play in the club's playoff loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night due to a lingering calf injury.
Speaking one day after Washington's season-ending defeat, the quarterback said it was "really difficult" not being able to suit up against Tampa Bay.
"Really difficult. Really difficult," Smith said. "Definitely frustrating having to sit there and not be suiting up, not holding up your end to the team. Obviously, it's not where you want to be."
All week, whether Smith would be able to play against Tampa Bay was uncertain. The quarterback was never a full participant in practice, as his calf was still bothering him to a decent degree.
Smith told Ron Rivera and the rest of Washington's coaching staff that he did feel like he could play, but both the passer and the staff knew he wouldn't be nearly 100 percent if he did suit up.
"That was obviously a lot of conversation with coach, especially towards the end of the week, that I did feel like I could roll. I told him that," Smith said. "To what capacity? Obviously, that was the biggest question."
With the Buccaneers being a heavy-blitzing team, Washington felt that playing Taylor Heinicke -- a more mobile quarterback -- would give the club its best chance to win the game.
"I was absolutely willing to go out there, but coach felt with their defense, the pressure they brought, their defensive line, that it just wasn't fair, and to go with Taylor and to use his legs," Smith said. "I couldn't do that. I was going to be limited, as you kind of saw in the week prior. It was really kind of going to be a pocket game. And I get that. I totally understood it."
The decision to play Heinicke worked out for Washington. Although they didn't win, Heinicke -- making just his second career NFL start -- excelled, throwing for over 300 yards and a touchdown while adding 46 rushing yards and another touchdown with his legs.
As for Smith, he initially injured his calf in Washington's Week 14 victory over the 49ers. The passer missed Washington's next two games as a result, but ultimately returned to the lineup last Sunday for the Burgundy and Gold's division-clinching win over the Eagles.
Although Washington defeated Philadelphia in that Week 17 contest, it was clear that Smith wasn't his normal self. The signal-caller lacked his typical mobility and took multiple hits throughout the contest, and his ailing calf had started to bother him once again.
"The Philly game for me, there was a big difference between the first half and the second half," Smith said. "How I dealt with the pounding and the running, it obviously affected me in the second half."
The 2020 season was an incredible one for Smith. He made one of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history, returning to football after 17 leg surgeries and nearly losing his life.
Smith was bummed the campaign ended with him being sidelined due to a different injury but was grateful for the opportunity to return to the field this year.
"You know, it's football. Football is a physical game and injuries are a part of it," Smith said. "Obviously, it's not the way you want to finish out the season. It's frustrating. But, bigger picture, to be back playing and rolling and to even be in this situation is something if you presented to me a year ago or two years ago, obviously, I would have jumped at."