One month after quarterback Alex Smith played his first downs of NFL football in almost two years, the 36-year-old hit a new milestone in his shocking comeback bid, starting for the Washington Football Team in their latest contest vs. the Detroit Lions. Now, the franchise's decisionmakers find themselves in the surprising position of deciding if Smith could be their long-term QB.
As relayed by ESPN's John Keim, head coach Ron Rivera confessed that he and his staff may have to consider that possibility after the former No. 1 overall pick and three-time Pro Bowl pick completed 38 passes and racked up an impressive 390 yards against Detroit, both of which were career highs.
"That's something we as coaches and as an organization have to talk about most certainly if he continues to play at this level," said Rivera. "He's back as a player."
Although Washington signed him to a lucrative, long-term contract extension in 2018 after acquiring him in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, he fell prey to one of the most devastating injuries the league had ever seen shortly thereafter. In his 10th start for the franchise, Smith suffered a spiral and compound fracture to the tibia and fibula in his right leg.
After his initial surgery, he developed life-threatening cases of necrotizing fasciitis and sepsis. Consequently, he was forced to endure 17 surgeries across four separate hospital stays over a nine-month period. At one point, doctors suggested that his leg be amputated above the knee.
In the end, the former Utah Ute and 2004 Heisman Trophy finalist persevered and made an unexpected return to his team after a grueling rehab.
Still, Smith was seemingly a longshot to even make the team's 53-man roster entering the 2020 season. His injury had pushed him out of Washington's plans and he was forced to lobby hard for a spot of any kind, per reports. Moreover, the club had chosen another Heisman finalist -- Ohio State standout Dwayne Haskins -- with a first-round selection in 2019.
However, Haskins struggled in his first four games as a pro and eventually lost his starting position. One week later, second-stringer Kyle Allen suffered a devastating ankle injury in his first start, forcing Smith back into action.
Although his squad is winless and he has been a bit rusty in three appearances thus far, Smith has thrown for 300-plus yards in back-to-back contests. He fell just short of securing dramatic comeback wins for Washington in both instances.
Despite the dramatic nature of his comeback, Smith also feels he has adapted surprisingly well to the strange circumstances that facilitated his return.
"That was the scary part is how normal it felt [Sunday]," Smith said. "I've got to pinch myself how lucky I am to feel that way. I'm lucky to progress this far and that I am where I am."