Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith has authored a remarkable comeback story over the past two years, but a severe leg injury wasn't his only obstacle. He also had to prove his own team wrong.
Smith believes Washington didn't expect him to play again, and the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year doesn't think the team wanted him back.
"There was a very small group of people that actually thought that I could do this. ... When I decided to come back, I definitely threw a wrench in the team's plan," Smith said, according to Clay Skipper of GQ Magazine. "They didn't see it, didn't want me there, didn't want me to be a part of it, didn't want me to be on the team, the roster, didn't want to give me a chance.
"Mind you, it was a whole new regime; they came in, I'm like the leftovers, and I'm hurt, and I'm this liability ... At that point, as you can imagine, everything I'd been through, I couldn't have cared less about all that."
Smith broke his leg during a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018, then battled a life-threatening infection in his surgically repaired right leg. He was sidelined for the entire 2019 campaign.
During Smith's rehab, Washington welcomed a new coaching staff headlined by head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera named Kyle Allen as Washington's starter for the first portion of the season after previously coaching him for two seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
"They tried to put me on (the physically unable to perform list) for two weeks, then they tried to high-arm me," Smith said. "I felt like I still hadn't had my fair shake at that point. I wanted to see if I could play quarterback and play football, and I feel like I hadn't been given that opportunity yet to find that out. ... I'm thankful we worked through all that stuff, but no, it wasn't like open arms coming back after two years."
Smith returned to the field in Week 5 last season, replacing an injured Allen. He earned his first start in Week 10 against the Detroit Lions.
The 36-year-old made four more consecutive starts before suffering a calf injury that sidelined him for two games. He was able to play in a must-win Week 17 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles to help Washington reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season, but he missed the team's wild-card loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to the same calf ailment.
Smith posted a 5-1 record as a starter in 2020. The three-time Pro Bowler completed 66.7% of his pass attempts for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns against eight interceptions through eight appearances.
Though Smith has two years left on his contract, his future with Washington is uncertain. The team will save $13.6 million against the salary cap if it moves Smith this offseason, according to Spotrac.