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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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Packers won't have fans for 1st two home games

Packers won't have fans for 1st two home games

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers say they won't have any fans for at least their first two home games this season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Lambeau Field will not be the same without our fans' energetic support in the stands," Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. "Given the extraordinary circumstances this year and the additional protocols in place, though, we determined it was best to take incremental steps to start the regular season. These two games will allow us to focus our attention on safely conducting games inside the stadium with all necessary participants."

That means there won't be any spectators for their Sept. 20 game with the Detroit Lions and their Oct. 5 Monday night game with the Atlanta Falcons.

Green Bay's third home game is Nov. 1 against the Minnesota Vikings. Packers officials say any decision on whether to admit fans for that game would depend on the status of the pandemic, and that they'd consult with local health officials.

This announcement comes two weeks after Packers CEO Mark Murphy had said that any Packers home games this year would include no more than 10,000-12,000 spectators, if any fans were allowed at all.

All other public areas at Lambeau Field, including parking lots, the pro shop and the Packers Hall of Fame, will be closed during the home games that have no fans. The Titletown area surrounding Lambeau Field will remain open to the public, but no team-run, game-day activities will be planned.

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Radio host Kevin Sheehan says it would be 'major indictment on Dwayne Haskins' if he doesn't start Week 1

Radio host Kevin Sheehan says it would be 'major indictment on Dwayne Haskins' if he doesn't start Week 1

As the Washington Football Team continues to ramp things up in training camp, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to officially name the team's starting quarterback.

However, for Team 980 radio host Kevin Sheehan, there's only one direction the team should go at the position.

"If he doesn't start September 13th against the Eagles, it's a major indictment on Dwayne Haskins," Sheehan said Thursday on Washington Talk & Friends.

In the QB room, there's Haskins, a first-round pick from a year ago that many expect to be the eventual starter. But Washington did trade this offseason for Kyle Allen, who has spent the past two seasons under Rivera and Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Carolina.

Earlier this offseason, Rivera said that if there was no normal offseason program due to the coronavirus pandemic, Allen would have a "leg up" on Haskins entering camp. 

Despite all that has transpired the past several months, Sheehan doesn't want the odd, pandemic-riddled offseason to be an excuse as to why Haskins shouldn't be the team's Week 1 starter.

"I don't care what anybody says about the offseason, minicamps and OTAs missing and Kyle Allen getting traded for, [Haskins] has got to be the guy," Sheehan said. 

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Earlier this week, Rivera praised Haskins for how he's handled everything this offseason. He commended the passer for how much of the playbook he's already mastered, albeit that being less than three-quarters of it.

Rivera's ultimate decision for who the team's starter will be isn't just between Haskins and Allen. Besides those two young signal-callers, there's also another QB in the mix: veteran Alex Smith. The 35-year-old is currently on the active PUP list, but has been cleared by his personal doctors to return to football activities.

Smith's journey is remarkable. After nearly losing his leg (and maybe his life) from infections that occurred as a result of the gruesome leg injury he suffered in November of 2018, Smith has worked incredibly hard to return to football. 

Even if Smith does get the clearance from Washington team doctors, Sheehan doesn't envision a scenario where the quarterback takes a meaningful snap for Washington.

"I don't see Alex Smith taking anything other than, if he takes a snap on an NFL field, it'll be ceremonial," Sheehan said. "That's what I'm hoping for, too, but I hope he gets back to where he's cleared and then decides not to play."

RELATED: DOES ALEX SMITH MAKE SENSE AS WASHINGTON'S QUARANTINE QB?

When asked why he thinks Rivera has not come out and named Haskins the starter already, Sheehan explained that the second-year passer may benefit from believing he's in a competition.

On his radio show, Sheehan spoke to former Washington cornerback Shawn Springs, who happens to be one of Haskins' biggest mentors. Springs explained to him that Haskins may benefit from not being given the title of QB1 just yet.

"[Springs] really thinks that it's better if Dwayne perceives he's in a competition," Sheehan said. "Maybe Ron recognizes that, too."

While Haskins may not be the starter just yet, plenty of signs point towards the second-year passer being Washington's Week 1 starting quarterback. And that's exactly why Sheehan and many others in the D.C. area believe he is the best direction for the team to go.

"I think he's fearless," Sheehan said of Haskins. "This thing is not above him, it's not too much for him."

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