One of the most remarkable comebacks in NFL history is complete. Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith has been activated off the PUP list and will return to the field, as Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic was the first to report (via Twitter). The team formally announced the move this morning.
By now, most NFL fans know the story. Smith, whom Washington acquired in a trade with the Chiefs in January 2018 and subsequently signed to a four-year, $94MM extension, broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg during a game against the Texans in November 2018. The injury was gruesome to behold, and its aftermath was even worse.
Smith developed sepsis, and the possibility of amputation was very real. The three-time Pro Bowler even indicated that he feels lucky just to be alive. He ultimately underwent 17 operations but vowed to resume his playing career, though his wife, Elizabeth, has understandably been conflicted on the matter.
But in an Instagram post that preceded Jhabvala’s report, Elizabeth wrote, “Hard work pays off! Lots to celebrate in the Smith house tonight,” and uploaded a video showing Alex’s family spraying him with champagne.
Of course, much has changed since Smith’s injury (aside from his team’s name). Washington was 6-3 and in the thick of the the NFC East race before Smith was hurt, but they ended up 7-9 that season and finished third in the division. They drafted Dwayne Haskins in the first round of the 2019 draft to be their QB of the future, and after they limped to a 3-13 record last season, they overhauled their front office and coaching staff, bringing in Ron Rivera as their new field general.
Rivera has previously indicated that Smith would be included in the team’s QB competition if activated, and while it would be surprising to see anyone other than Haskins under center when Week 1 rolls around, it’s clearly unwise to count Smith out. As John Keim of ESPN.com writes, Smith will be on the field when Washington begins full-pad work on Tuesday.
Now 36, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft will, if nothing else, provide invaluable veteran mentorship for Haskins and Kyle Allen. Smith will carry a $21.4MM cap charge in 2020, but Washington can release him after the season for some significant cap relief. He is due to count $24.4MM against the cap in 2021, but his dead cap hit drops to $10.8MM.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.