Alex Smith is no longer a member of the Washington Football Team, but the recently retired quarterback is still making news for his issues with how he believes Ron Rivera and his coaching staff handled his return to football last season following his gruesome leg injury.
In a Sports Illustrated profile written by Greg Bishop (you can read the whole thing here), Smith said he felt "patronized" by Washington's coaches, that they preferred a "cute story" and that the team "sabotaged" his return, which was one of the best recovery stories in sports history.
On Friday, Bishop joined the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington and said Smith's biggest problem with the club is the lack of transparency they gave him when he returned to football activities last season.
"This is a guy who says in the story, if the coaches told him he was good enough or they were too scared to play him, he would understand where they were coming from," Bishop said. "His beef with them, to my level of understanding, stems to the fact that they did not say that to him."
Earlier this offseason, following a GQ article on Smith where the QB said he "threw a wrench" in the team's plans last year, Rivera admitted that he was "scared to death" to be the coach to throw Smith back into action. The head coach couldn't help but wonder what would happen if Smith got significantly injured once again, and that he would have been the one responsible for throwing the passer back into the action.
He echoed a similar sentiment in a statement to Sports Illustrated published in Bishop's article: Rivera through a team spokesperson said that he "was scared to death about putting [Alex] back out there and that is something I struggled with every day. It’s unfortunate that he feels we patronized him because I can tell you that was not our intention. At the end of the day, I commend Alex because he proved everyone wrong and exceeded any reasonable expectations that anyone had set for him. He not only made it back onto the field but led us to the playoffs. It was a truly remarkable feat.”
However, that sentiment was never passed along to Smith, according to Bishop.
Smith was cleared for football by renowned surgeon Dr. Robin West ahead of training camp last season, but Washington placed the 36-year-old on the Physically Unable to Perform list to begin camp. Smith didn't understand why.
"I think the lack of transparency of putting him on the Physically Unable to Perform list when literally the most renowned surgeons in limb-salvage pronounced him physically able to perform ... There was clearly a level of mistrust between him and the team," Bishop said.
From Bishop's perspective, had the coaches been upfront with Smith from the beginning, the quarterback would have understood. But, Bishop said per Smith, that wasn't the case.
"While I can totally understand the coaches and their apprehension, Smith says in the story that he understands it, I think what he wanted was a level of honesty he wasn't given there," Bishop said.
The way Washington handled Smith's late-season leg injury also reportedly bothered the passer, too. Washington called the injury a "calf strain," one that kept Smith sidelined for three of the team's last four matchups, including the Wild Card playoff game.
But, as Bishop wrote in the story and said on the Junkies today, the way Smith's leg was reconstructed, suffering a calf strain would have been literally impossible.
"His calf was turned around to build that leg," Bishop said. "It would be hard to strain a calf when it's not there, right? They have not turned it back around in the subsequent years."
Smith told Bishop that his injury was a stress fracture. His doctors, who are closer to limb-salvage experts than anyone else, said the new injury wasn't related to the life-threatening one.
In the end, Smith wanted to know the truth from his coaches the entire time. In his opinion, he didn't get that.
"What he wanted from the coaches was a level of transparency to him and to the public about what had really happened and what their thought process and decision-making process really were," Bishop said.
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