Alex Smith suffered a gruesome broken leg last November, and his recovery has been anything but simple. The injury got infected, which required more surgery, and for the last few months Smith has been walking with an external fixator on his leg, an intense looking circular metal device running from his knee to his foot with screws into his bones.
It's fairly obvious Smith won't play this season, but the Redskins never seemed to fully commit to releasing the veteran quarterback. Smith remains under contract through 2022 with guaranteed money on his deal at least through 2020.
Washington's long-term plan at quarterback changed dramatically in April when the team drafted Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State with the 15th overall pick. It's possible Haskins doesn't play right away this season, but a first-round QB needs to be on the field sooner than later.
Haskins is now the Redskins franchise quarterback, and all of that makes Smith's first public comments since his injury that much more interesting.
Speaking with Angie Goff of Fox5DC, Smith revealed where he is in his recovery and his hopes for the future.
"The first four months were really really hard," Smith said, who was limited to a wheelchair early in his recovery. "When you have independence and then lose it, that was the hardest part."
In the last few months, things have improved for Smith. He can walk now and even played golf. Smith hopes the fixator comes off his leg in the next four to six weeks, and after that, he needs to re-learn to run and change direction.
After that, he wants to play football again.
"That's the plan," Smith said of returning to the field. "I got to conquer some more steps before I get there."
The Redskins posted pictures of Smith on the team's practice fields throwing passes, which he said isn't a problem. Moving around in the pocket, something that Smith excelled at before the injury, will be a different story.
"The steps I'm at right now are lifestyle steps," Smith said.
Smith said he's focused on being able to play basketball with his kids and chase his young daughter around. Football will come after that. Throughout the interview, Smith showed an impressive sense of positivity and understanding of the big picture despite walking around with metal screws drilled into his leg.
"It's crazy looking and it sucks what happened but at the same time there's people out there that have it way worse."
As for the Redskins roster, the team is in position to leave Smith on the injured reserve this year and carry his $20 million salary, in addition to paying Haskins along with veterans Colt McCoy and Case Keenum. The salary cap is tight carrying four QB salaries, but the team has little choice.
Next year, McCoy and Keenum will be free agents. If Smith actually returns by next year, it's hard to envision Washington bringing back either of the veterans, but obviously Haskins will be on the team.
Could Smith and Haskins really coexist? Probably not. If Smith works all the way back to full health and is able to play football again, it would be hard to imagine the team letting him compete with a second-year Haskins for the top QB job.
With the severity of the injury, and the large steps still needed in his comeback, that conversation seems unnecessary. For now, Redskins fans should just wish Smith well in his recovery.
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