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Alex Smith Defies Odds to Play Football

Some injury comebacks defy odds and inspire others. NFL quarterback Alex Smith s return to the gridiron this season did both.


In 2018, the quarterback incurred what many believed a career-ending injury – a compound fracture to his lower right leg. Repaired with surgery, Smith thought he would simply rehab the injury and go back to the field. When infection set in, a series of surgeries – 17 in total – fought to simply save his leg. Amputation would have provided an easy way out that would save his life. It was the choice his wife would have made, but Smith conferred with his doctors and instead chose the complex route.


Throughout the series of surgeries, he lost much of the muscle tissue of his lower right leg. Doctors did salvage it though. Two years later, after arduous physical therapy, Smith ran back onto the field, resuming his post as first string, starting quarterback. His clearance to play shocked analysts, fans, and journalists, but not his teammates who have always identified Smith as a leader.


Resuming play after proving himself in numerous medical exams, strength tests, and practices, he led the Washington Football Team from October 2020 until another injury sidelined him in late December. That meant he stood on the sidelines while his team fought for a place in the Super Bowl which it missed. The takeaway though is Smith’s determination, resilience, and ability to commit to a task. It also shows the possibilities when a player consults with specialists and willingly tries the new, different approach.


Many people considered it enough for Smith to walk again. For Smith, as he has told numerous journalists, it would only become enough when he played again.


“To be back in the locker room, to be on the field with the guys, to be playing a game I love and to lose yourself in it, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. You cannot duplicate it outside of here,” Smith told The Washington Post in an interview.


Smith’s calf injury has time to heal before next season and he has two years left on his contract. He’s weighing his options though. Knowing he did it provides him a new place from which to make future decisions. Right now, it is wait and see, but Smith returned to have a fabulous season in which he led his team to the playoffs. Not bad for a guy who nearly died. Having achieved that return and knowing how his team would miss his leadership and his mentorship of other players, perhaps a new career as a quarterback coach looms in his future. It’s one that would let him keep the camaraderie and the game while maintaining his health.


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