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Alex Smith 'looked good' during multiple days of on-field workouts, per sources

Alex Smith 'looked good' during multiple days of on-field workouts, per sources

Just a little more than a week after getting medically cleared by his own surgical team sources tell NBC Sports Washington that Alex Smith impressed during on-field workouts for the Washington Football Team. 

Smith broke his tibia and fibula in November 2018 and subsequently suffered multiple infections to the compound fracture. His injury was severe, but his recovery was much worse, and few ever expected the former No. 1 overall pick to ever play again. 

Now, nearly two full years later, Smith is on the precipice of returning to the football field. 

Speaking with sources close to the Washington Football Team, Smith participated in four consecutive days of on-field workouts with trainers and performed well. Perhaps more importantly, Smith suffered no setbacks after the on-field work.

Last week, Smith passed his physical but did not clear for football activities before the team moved him to the Physically Unable to Perform list. Washington head coach Ron Rivera explained the situation. 

"We got a bit of good news that he passed the physical. As far as his doctors were concerned, he could resume football activity, and now, he’s got to pass the football physical for us," Rivera said. "And if that happens, again, I think this is a guy that becomes part of our equation."

RELATED: THIS PART OF THE ALEX SMITH EQUATION, WHILE SMALL, SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED

When, or if, that happens remains uncertain, but for Washington QB coach Ken Zampese much of it will be about Smith's ability to protect himself. 

"We will be able to see through some of the drill work, how quickly he can move out of the way and slide and play. In 11-on-11 when there is no contact, guys that come through on the rush, how they move in the pocket," Zampese said. "How you can accelerate away from a rusher. Those are the things that we will use to determine the next steps."

Plenty is unknown about Smith's possible return to the football field. Can he protect himself? Can he actually handle being hit again? Can his leg hold up? Can the Washington medical team ever actually clear him?

Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen will also play a major role in any return to the field for Smith.

2019 first-round pick Haskins impressed the coaching staff this offseason and looks poised to be the Washington starting QB this fall while Allen has the most game experience in offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system of any passer on the roster. Both of those players are off to good starts in team workouts as well, sources said. 

What is known, and becoming more obvious every day, is that Smith will not quit. And it's time to take his football comeback quite seriously.

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Washington QB coach says Alex Smith will be in the mix when he can truly 'protect himself'

Washington QB coach says Alex Smith will be in the mix when he can truly 'protect himself'

A wrinkle was thrown into the plan at quarterback for the Washington Football Team last Friday when Alex Smith's personal doctors cleared him for football activity. Smith, of course, has not played since November of 2018, where he suffered a gruesome injury, one that nearly cost him his leg.

Smith did not pass the physical from Washington's team doctors when he arrived this week, meaning he will begin training camp on the active PUP (physically unable to perform) list. The passer can come off that list at any point during camp.

However, even when Smith does come off that list, there's no certainty he'll be ready to return to live NFL action. In a Zoom call with local reporters on Thursday, Washington QB coach Ken Zampese said that Smith won't truly be in the mix at the position until the passer can protect himself.

"Physically, the first thing we have to find out is can he protect himself? We'll figure that out as we go," Zampese said. "If he passes the certain criteria to get to the next level of getting himself back to the field, we'll figure those things out as we go. When it gets to the point where he gets to practice, we'll find out."

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Optimism surrounding Smith's future as an NFL quarterback appears to be higher than ever. On Tuesday, Washington head coach Ron Rivera admitted that once Smith does become fully healthy, he no doubt factors into the team's decision at QB. 

Yet, this year's modified training camp due to the coronavirus pandemic will make it even more difficult for Washington to assess Smith's progress. Padded practices don't begin for another few weeks. There are no preseason games this year (it's unsure -- and probably unlikely -- that Smith would have appeared in those anyway).

For Zampese, Rivera and the rest of Washington's coaching staff, they'll only have practice sessions to figure out if Smith can truly return to action.

"We'll be able to see through some of the drill work, how quickly he can move out of the way, slide," Zampese said. "We'll also be in 11-on-11 where there's no contact, and there will be guys that come clean on the rush. How [he] moves in the pocket, how [he] can accelerate away from a free rusher, those kinds of things. We'll use all of that to determine the next step from there."

RELATED: IF ALEX SMITH CAN ACTUALLY PLAY, SHOULD WASHINGTON CONSIDER A TRADE?

Prior to his career-threatening injury, Smith had a long and mostly successful career in the NFL. Zampese believes those past experiences will help the passer out mentally when he does get to a physical point where he's able to play again.

"I think the other things will come back very smoothly. You don't lose the experience you've had playing the position," Zampese said. "Some of those things will be like riding a bike, and others won't be. We'll jump through all those hoops when the time comes. I'm really excited about that."

Even without Smith currently in the mix, Washington has its own quarterback battle between second-year passer Dwayne Haskins and new arrival Kyle Allen.

Haskins is more naturally talented between the two (and the presumptive favorite to win the job), but Allen has experience playing in Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense. Allen already knows the language of Turner's system, something Zampese stressed multiple times throughout his media session. Rivera has already said he's looking forward to the "pure competition" between the two.

While Smith will begin camp watching Haskins and Allen battle it out from the sidelines, Zampese said the veteran has been a great example for the two younger quarterbacks.

"It's a great example that he sets for the rest of the guys," Zampese said. "He could very easily be like 'I know this' or 'It's done like this,' but he's not like that at all. He's fantastic. He's a great example for the other guys."

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If Alex Smith gets cleared for football, does he become the starting QB?

If Alex Smith gets cleared for football, does he become the starting QB?

Alex Smith's comeback story already hit incredible levels, but the Hollywood ending might still emerge.

Washington Football head coach Ron Rivera explained that if Smith gets cleared for football action then he will get to compete for the starting quarterback job.

"We compete. I mean that is the truth of the matter," Rivera said when asked what happens when Smith gets fully cleared.

"We got a bit of good news that he passed the physical. As far as his doctors were concerned, he could resume football activity, and now, he’s got to pass the football physical for us. And if that happens, again, I think this is a guy that becomes part of our equation. It’s the truth of the matter. He’ll be part of a competition going forward."

RELATED: ALEX SMITH EXPECTED TO START TRAINING CAMP ON WASHINGTON NFL'S PUP LIST

For anyone that saw the brutal broken leg Smith sustained back in November 2018, to even discuss a return to the football field seems insane. That the possibility has become so real is even more impressive. 

Smith's perseverance and commitment to his recovery has been incredible. Incredible. 

But for the Burgundy and Gold, the situation at quarterback becomes very interesting if Smith actually gets cleared to play football. 

The organization drafted Dwayne Haskins 15th overall in 2019, and despite some ugly play early on in his rookie season, he impressed late. Haskins looks to be in line to take over as the starting quarterback, and if he falters, Rivera traded for Kyle Allen this offseason. Allen started 12 games last year for the Panthers, most of them while Rivera was coaching, and the third-year passer already knows offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system. 

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Rivera said that Haskins and Allen are in an open competition now for the starting job. Even if that's just coach speak and Haskins is leading the race, Smith would change that competition significantly. 

Smith is an accomplished NFL player. He's been to Pro Bowls and playoff games. It would be quite hard to envision a scenario where he's not the best QB of the group with Haskins and Allen, but if Rivera is focused on a long-term rebuild in Washington, does playing Smith serve that purpose. He's 36 and while he's under contract through the 2022 season, this is the final year of his deal with guaranteed money. 

The Alex Smith story is incredible and he deserves loud praise for his tenacity in recovery. That said, if Smith actually gets back on the field, it creates quite a conundrum for Rivera and the Washington team.

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