Just when Washington football fans felt like too much happened in the last three weeks, news erupted Friday night that quarterback Alex Smith got medically cleared to return to football.
While that's technically true, it's important to point out that Smith has not been cleared by Washington Football Team doctors, and the earliest that can happen is July 27. Speaking with sources close to the situation, Smith's return to actual game action still faces significant hurdles.
ESPN reported that Smith has been cleared by his "surgical team to return to full football activity" but that does not mean the Washington football team will agree. Smith will undergo a physical next week, and that will be the first step toward his return to the field.
Smith's entire story has been incredible and well documented by ESPN in the Project 11 documentary. The quarterback broke his tibia and fibula in November 2018, and what's worse, sustained massive infections in the leg. He nearly lost his leg, and for a time, his life was in danger too. To recover to this point is simply incredible, and Smith deserves significant praise for his perseverance.
Still, to get back on the field is another matter.
Smith would need to get cleared for full contact to get beyond even individual practice drills, and in a COVID-19 dominated training camp with no preseason and serious questions about any 11v11 practices, it's hard to imagine that happening.
It's also worth noting that this is the final year of guaranteed money on Smith's existing contract with Washington. The team traded for Smith in 2018 and immediately signed him to a four-year contract extension. The first two years carried plenty of guaranteed cash, $71 million, but in 2021, Washington could release Smith and save about $14 million against the cap.
Washington head coach Ron Rivera has held back from fully committing to second-year QB Dwayne Haskins as the starter for this fall. The team traded for former Panthers starting QB Kyle Allen this offseason.
If there is a quarterback battle during training camp expect it to be between those two if a battle happens at all.
Never count out Alex Smith. Ever.
He's proven that just by returning this far from his devastating injury.
But don't be in a hurry to count him in either. There are many steps left on his incredible journey, and it starts with clearance from Washington team doctors.
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