Alex Smith's return to the football field on Sunday after nearly two years removed from a severe leg injury brought with it mixed emotions for those taking in the incredible moment.
All were proud of the quarterback for battling back and defying the odds, but some couldn't help but wince when they saw Smith take a big hit from the Rams defense, which happened quite often.
ESPN's Tony Kornheiser was in that faction, feeling nothing but nerves during Smith's time on the field.
“I was physically terrified for him. I saw his wife and kids in the stands and my heart ached for them. He got sacked six times, the Washington offensive line is terrible," Kornheiser said on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption. "Every time he went down I thought his leg would break again. I honestly did.”
As Kornheiser mentioned, shortly after Smith took the field the reality of the physical nature of football settled in. The quarterback quickly took a sack, and then six more through his two-plus quarters of action. That doesn't include the numerous hits he took when delivering the ball from the pocket.
Elizabeth Smith, Alex's wife, was in attendance at the game with their children and experienced emotions similar to Kornheiser as Smith entered the game. When she saw her husband trot onto the field, she couldn't help but feel like she was "going to vomit." That nervousness died down, however, as she witnessed the quarterback take the hits and complete his incredible journey.
Head coach Ron Rivera and Smith were in a different boat, expressing that they were pleased to see the first big hit. Throughout training camp and entering the regular season, the biggest question mark surrounding Smith was if he would be able to protect himself and get back up after being taken to the ground.
Sunday showed that wouldn't be an issue, though both could have done without the additional five sacks that came after.
It was the additional knocks that had Kornheiser struggling to enjoy Smith's incredible comeback. Each time the quarterback dropped or had Aaron Donald on his back, he feared for what would come next.
“I’m glad he is physically well, but it was like watching a car wreck," Kornheiser said. "It was very, very hard for me.”