Joe Theismann knows what Alex Smith has been through. He's had a gruesome leg injury that no one can unsee, and he's tried to work his way back from that to continue his NFL career.
The difference between Theismann and Smith though came Sunday, when Smith made his return to an NFL field 693 days after a broken leg so severe, he almost lost the leg.
Theismann's career ended after Lawrence Taylor's hit back in 1985, but he was just as emotionally invested in Smith's return against the Rams.
"I was nervous for him," Theismann told NBC Sports Washington on Washington Football Postgame Live. "I wanted him to get through it. I wanted to see him get hit. I wanted to see him move. I know the exact things that I went through after about two, two-and-a-half years when I started working out for different teams, and I really wanted to come back, but my leg wasn't ready. I couldn't make certain movements"
Smith finished just 9-of-17 passing for 37 yards after being sacked six times in a rain-soaked, sloppy 30-10 loss, but as Theismann pointed out, it was about the bigger picture.
"Oddly enough, it sounds a little crazy but when he went down in a pile there and got sacked and got up I was very relieved that he could take the hit," Theismann said.
Smith's comeback is one of the great stories of the NFL this year, whatever happens the rest of the way. Anyone that had the stomach to look at those pictures of his leg after all those surgeries knows this wasn't some normal injury. One of the most likeable guys in the league has made an amazing return to the sport he just desperately wants to keep playing.
That alone is a success story we can all appreciate.