With the season on the line, the Washington Football Team will have either Alex Smith or Taylor Heinicke at quarterback against the Eagles.
Smith is a big reason why the team is in position to win the division, but a calf injury has kept him sidelined for the past two weeks while Heinicke, newly anointed backup following Dwayne Haskins' release, showed some good things in the fourth quarter of Washington's loss to Carolina in Week 16.
Smith's status worries former Washington quarterback and Super Bowl champion Joe Theismann, and not just because of the uncertainty surrounding how ready he'll be this week. The type of injury Smith suffered reminded him of a cautionary tale in the NBA.
"When they said Alex had a calf issue, the first thing I thought of was Kevin Durant," The Team 980's Kevin Sheehan. "Kevin Durant for two weeks, had a calf issue. Got feeling really good, went out on the [court] and blew his Achilles out."
Durant suffered a calf injury in the 2019 Western Conference semifinals against the Rockets and was held out of the rest of that series as well as the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors made it through those two rounds fine without Durant, but once they came up against the Raptors in the NBA Finals, it was clear they needed Durant.
With his team down 3-1 in the series, Durant played on the injured calf a bit earlier than he should have. It was not too long into Game 5 of the Finals that Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon, costing him the rest of the series and the subsequent season.
Per Theismann's experience, part of the reason why a calf injury can turn into an Achilles injury is the nature of the recovery process.
"I know the problems that I've had with calves, it stays immobile for so long that you have concern yourself with the Achilles and the amount of work that Alex has put in and the time he's put in," he said. "I'd need to see a fair amount of work out of him, a fair amount of work out of him in warmups to feel comfortable with putting him out on the football field."
Durant has since returned to the court and early in his first season with the Nets, he looks every bit of his old self. Still, there's no telling how the injury will impact him as the season plays out and it's certainly an injury every player should want to avoid.
So if Smith isn't completely healed from his calf injury, Theismann is all in on Washington's newest backup quarterback.
"I think Taylor [played] very well," he said. "I would feel comfortable putting him on the football field if Alex wasn't ready to go 100%."