Alex Smith attends Redskins OTAs six months after gruesome leg injury, which could bode well for Dwayne Haskins

After suffering a gruesome leg injury that ended his first season with the Redskins in November, Alex Smith's future in football remains very much in doubt, an uncertainty that is highlighted by the team's decision to use their first-round pick on quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Despite facing an uncertain future and losing his status as the team's franchise quarterback, Smith is already back working with the team in some capacity six months after enduring an injury that may have robbed him of the rest of his football career.

On Thursday, a familiar face showed up to Redskins OTAs. Unless the second photo is staged, it also looks like Smith is able to throw a football.

It's obviously unclear how healthy Smith is at this point in his recovery. The photos do not show his lower body, which makes it impossible to see his injured leg. 

The injury, a broken tibia and fibula, happened on Nov. 18. Since then, Smith has reportedly battled complications from surgery. It's been reported that the Redskins do not expect him to be available at all during the upcoming season and that there's a chance the injury is a career-ender. It's not the result anyone could've expected when the Redskins traded for Smith last offseason and promptly handed him a mega extension.

The Redskins certainly appear to be operating as if they don't expect Smith to return as their starting quarterback. When Haskins fell to them at No. 15 in this year's draft, they made him their new franchise quarterback. 

But Smith's return to the practice field could bode well for Haskins. Smith might just be the best-possible mentor for the young quarterback.

The only reason Smith got traded after a successful five-year stretch in Kansas City that saw him throw for 102 touchdowns and only 33 interceptions while helping the Chiefs reach the postseason four times is because the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the 2017 draft. After letting Mahomes sit behind Smith for a season, the Chiefs promoted him and sent Smith to Washington. Mahomes went on to become the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000-plus yards and 50-plus touchdowns in a single season en route to earning league MVP honors.

By all accounts, Smith played a significant role in Mahomes' development. Unlike some quarterbacks who shy away from taking on an active mentorship role, Smith appeared to take Mahomes under his wing.

"I will come back to last year and being in that room with Alex [Smith], having that opportunity to see how he worked," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said in September, per Pro Football Talk. "For a young guy, that's invaluable. Alex was not one who was going to hide anything or play games with him or anything like that. He kept it all out in the open and was secure enough, that wasn't a problem. ... He came into a good situation with Alex and I said that was priceless for him. There's no way he could repay Alex with having that experience. That was phenomenal."

Mahomes also told Peter King this past season that Smith taught him "how to prepare, mostly."

"He taught me how to make sure I was ready for any situation that presented itself in a game," Mahomes said. "I owe him a lot."

All of this could bode well for Haskins' development. Obviously, given the severity of the injury, Haskins won't be able to observe Smith the way Mahomes did. But if Smith is healthy enough to at least hang out around the team, he could be a valuable voice in Haskins' ear. That's important given how much is riding on Haskins' development. 

With the Eagles and Cowboys nearing what will probably be pricey extensions with their young quarterbacks and with the Giants making Daniel Jones their surprising quarterback of the future, which is what allowed the Redskins to grab Haskins that late in the first round, there might be an opening in the NFC East. 

The Eagles and Cowboys aren't going to have the financial flexibility that comes with having a quarterback on a rookie deal for much longer, which makes building around their quarterbacks exponentially harder. It's a lot more difficult to construct a Super Bowl caliber roster when you're paying one player somewhere around $30 million per year. The Giants are moving forward with a Manning and Jones combination, which could, in theory, play out like a Favre-Rodgers situation, but given the two quarterbacks the Giants have are named Eli Manning and Daniel Jones, that appears to be nothing more than a fantasy. 

If Haskins is good and if he manages to get good quickly, the Redskins could seize the opening. It's obviously a huge if. Nobody knows how Haskins will transition to the NFL. But he was considered by some experts to be the second-best quarterback in the draft behind only Kyler Murray. Having Smith, the former top-overall pick, around should help him adjust to the NFL. 

Given everything Smith is going through, Smith alone can't be responsible for Haskins' development. It doesn't mean Haskins is going to be wind up becoming the next Mahomes. While Smith deserves credit for his work with Mahomes, he's not the reason why Mahomes is the greatest quarterback on the planet already. 

But having Smith around can only help a young quarterback. Mahomes clearly benefited from Smith's presence -- and long ago, so did Colin Kaepernick. Haskins could be next as Smith begins to form what could be considered a quarterback tree.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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