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Alex Smith's Incredible Comeback Is Not Finished Yet


Alex Smith might not be counting, but there are scores of football fans who are aware that it's been 637 days since his life-altering injury on Nov. 18, 2018.

As shocking as that number is, it doesn't tell the complete story. Between getting carted off FedExField and getting activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list on Aug. 16, Smith nearly lost his career, his leg and his life. He has gone through 17 surgeries and countless hours of grueling rehab just to get to where he could be on the field again.

One question still remains in the minds of many: Why? Smith has already had a long career with plenty of accomplishments. Why not retire, or as Smith puts it, "ride off into the sunset?"

Smith doesn't want to take the easy path, though, and he's not about to stop with practice. He wants to play in a game again, and he'll do whatever it takes to accomplish his next goal.

"I know if I can go out there and play quarterback, I can do anything else in life," Smith told Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson on Monday. "This is one of the hardest jobs in sports, and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to put that jersey on the last two days and go out there and try and do it."

Smith said the decision to even attempt a comeback was difficult. It was daunting when Smith first considered it, and even saying out loud that he wanted to play again was scary. He's an optimistic person, but making a full recovery seemed a distant reality.

Despite the slim odds, Smith decided to try, and his family documented every step of his efforts from learning how to walk to running in October of 2019. His progress was shown in the E60 documentary "Project 11," which revealed the full extent of Smith’s injury and harrowing recovery for the first time.

But through it all, Smith persevered.

"For me, it's taking on that challenge," Smith said. "I don't think it's something I could walk away from and be able to sleep at night if I did. I don't think I could look my kids in the eye and talk to them about giving it their all and pushing through things. We all face adversity in life, and it all comes in different forms. Was I going to talk about it, or was I going to be about it?"

There were still moments when Smith questioned whether his efforts were worth it. In the documentary, he said he questioned if he would ever be normal or functional again.

That's when he leaned on his family and countless others for support.

"Certainly the ones closest to me," Smith said. "The doctors, the [physical trainers], trainers that I've worked with day in and day out ever since 21 months ago. There are good days, there are bad days, and I think you try not to rush to judgements. I've learned patience through this process and to take it day by day."

Smith said the past two days of practice have been "really, really special," but his focus has now shifted to getting on the field for a game for the first time since his injury. He's already familiar with Washington's new system -- offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s father, Norv Turner, ran a similar offense when he was in San Francisco in 2006 -- but playing quarterback still comes down to making quick decisions and throwing accurate passes.

"I'm excited. It's something that has come back quickly for me," Smith said of the offense. "It's been nice to go out there and participate in it. I'm looking forward to progressing to that next step."

That next step is competing with fellow quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Kyle Allen. It might seem as if that is a contrast from the mentorship role he had in 2019, but Smith doesn't believe competing and mentoring are mutually exclusive.

"In a healthy situation, I think you want competition, especially in the quarterback room," he said. "When I get the opportunity, I go out there and compete my tail off. At the same time, when I'm not, I try to help these guys."

Many were pessimistic as Smith tried to come back from his horrific injury. Those people believed he would never play again and that he was risking his life trying to do so.

Smith has defied the odds numerous times already, and if there's one lesson to take from the past two years, it's that no one should doubt him.

"At some point, I'll obviously find out what my limitations are," Smith said. "But I haven't found them yet."

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