After Alex Smith announced his retirement on Monday, there was an outpouring of support for the longtime NFL quarterback. Many praised Smith for his incredible recovery from a gruesome 2018 leg injury that forced him to undergo 17 surgeries before he returned to the field with the Washington Football Team nearly two years later.
But apparently not every member of the organization was fully on board with Smith’s comeback attempt.
In a new feature story from Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop, Smith says that he found Washington Football Team coaches “patronizing” and believed they only wanted a “cute story.” Smith’s father, Doug, went so far as to claim the team “sabotaged” his son’s return.
Still, [Smith] did not understand the tactics his coaches used to keep him sidelined. First, they placed him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, even though world-renowned doctors had pronounced him physically able to perform. At camp, players wore GPS trackers, and none traversed 4,000 yards a day on average like Smith, whose coaches asked him to carry extra weight, push sleds and hurdle bags for drills — tasks he had never done in 15 pro seasons, let alone before his leg had to be rebuilt. Smith believed the team wanted to see if it could break him, and if that sounds paranoid, the team physician agreed with him. They seemed to be asking, Dr. Robin West says, “What can he withstand?”
“Are you sure you’re clearing him?” the coaches would ask. West would try and explain. The short answer: Yes. The disclaimer: She would assess his leg based on her informed medical opinion. “I got very little support,” she says. “He almost died. He almost lost his leg. Why would he want to?” Reasonable questions. “That’s not your decision,” West told them.
Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera told Bishop that he was “scared to death” about putting Smith on the field, but it was never the coaching staff’s intention to “patronize” him.
“At the end of the day, I commend Alex because he proved everyone wrong and exceeded any reasonable expectations that anyone had set for him,” Rivera said. “He not only made it back onto the field but led us to the playoffs. It was a truly remarkable feat.”
Smith added that the alleged treatment “pissed me off,” and his wife, Elizabeth, felt that he may have used it as extra motivation to not only get clearance to play, but also to regain the starting QB job. In eight games last season (six starts), Smith totaled 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions on his way to earning the Comeback Player of the Year award.