Alex Smith is fresh off easily the most inspiring season of his NFL career. The former No. 1 overall draft pick didn't post gaudy numbers or even start Washington Football Team's lone playoff game in 2020. But he did coast to NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors for the recovery that led to his on-field performance, overcoming a severe leg injury and potential amputation to return after more than a year out of the league. Just don't give Washington too much credit for embracing his improbable journey.
Speaking with GQ's Clay Skipper this week, Smith did not mince words when recounting his road back to the field, indicating that Washington was initially very resistant to the idea of the 36-year-old quarterback actually taking snaps in 2020.
"They never thought I was coming back," Smith said. "When I decided to come back, I definitely threw a wrench in the team's plan. 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."
Washington coach Ron Rivera repeatedly insisted prior to the season that Smith would be part of the team's QB plans in the event he received medical clearance and could withstand normal practice routines. And while Smith ultimately did take over under center, replacing the injured Kyle Allen and demoted Dwayne Haskins in Week 5, that went against Washington's original plans.
"Heck no, they didn't want me there," Smith told GQ. "At that point, as you can imagine, everything I'd been through, I couldn't have cared less about all that. Whether you like it or not, I'm giving this a go at this point."
Washington's opposition to his return began in the summer, when Smith abruptly received clearance to begin football activities, despite sitting out the entire 2019 season while in rehab.
"I mean, they tried to put me on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) for two weeks, then they tried to high-arm me," he 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. It's like getting this close to the end line of a marathon and they're telling you that you can't finish the race. It's like, f--- that. I'm finishing this thing. At least I'm going to see if I can. So, I'm thankful we worked through all that stuff, but no, it wasn't like open arms coming back after two years."
As for whether Smith intends to return to Washington in 2021, the QB refused to fully commit to playing but suggested "football-wise, I got more left." It's very possible, if he does continue his career, that it'll be elsewhere. Despite riding Smith to an NFC East title in 2020, Washington has reportedly been on the hunt for an upgrade under center and can save nearly $15 million by releasing the veteran this offseason.