SALT LAKE CITY — The latest challenge in Alex Smith’s football career isn’t keeping him down as he takes a realistic approach to life after a gruesome leg injury.
The former Utah quarterback, now in his second year with the Washington Redskins, told Fox 5 DC’s Angie Goff in his first interview since the injury that he hopes to play again after fracturing the tibia and fibula in his right leg during a Nov. 18, 2018, loss to the Houston Texans.
“That’s the plan,” Smith told Goff in her Oh My Goff podcast posted last Friday. "There are steps I've got to conquer before I get there. ... Learning to run again. That's a big one. I'm already throwing. Throwing isn't a problem, but dropping (back), moving around, change of direction."
The 35-year-old Smith, the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, told Goff he will need to wear the external fixator that’s stabilized his leg for at least four to six more weeks, putting him in the apparatus for around 7½ months.
That comes after Smith required multiple surgeries following the injury and was hospitalized longer than expected because of an infection that raised concerns his career could be over, according to The Washington Post.
Smith called the last three months “life-changing,” as he’s been able to start driving and working out while getting off crutches.
“The first four months were really, really hard” both physically and mentally, Smith told Goff. “Just to be in a wheelchair as long as I was. When you have independence and you lose it ... that was the hardest part.”
He later added: “To be honest, what’s helped me the most to get through this is just try to get through each day,” while crediting his support staff — including his wife and doctors — for their help through the recovery process.
In response to Smith saying he hopes to play in the NFL again some day, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann told 106.7 FM The Fan in Washington, D.C. it would be years before Smith returns, if he indeed does.
"In Alex's case, it is a long road, it is a tough road. And I would be surprised if he plays again just because of the age factor," Theismann told 106.7 The Fan. "When it comes to Alex's rehab, having gone through it, it's a two-year process. So, from the time he really starts to step back on a football field, you have to figure two years."
Smith completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,180 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions last year before the injury during his first season in Washington. He signed a four-year, $94 million contract with the Redskins in 2018, with $71 million guaranteed, ESPN reported.
Since Smith was injured, Washington has traded for Case Keenum and taken former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Those moves cloud what his role may be with the Redskins if and/or when he returns to the field.
Last month, Washington shared a picture of Smith, with the photo cropped at the knee, of the quarterback throwing a pass during an organized team activity session.
“He’s recovering nicely, slowly but surely,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden told The Washington Post earlier this month. “It’s going to be a little bit of time, but soon as he’s able to, he’ll push it and get himself ready. We’ll just have to wait and see. It’s going to be a pretty lengthy process, for the most part. Once he’s able to go, he’ll recover a lot quicker than people anticipate, I’m sure.”
Last month, NBC Sports discussed the role Smith can play as a mentor to the other quarterbacks in Washington this season.
"He's a selfless guy," analyst Chris Simms said during a video segment. "It's easy to imagine him helping a young quarterback in the locker room, in the meeting room, whatever it may be. He's going to earn a lot of respect with the fact that, yeah he is injured and probably won't play this year but he's being paid a lot of money and he is trying to contribute in some way. That will go over big in the locker room and guys will give him much respect for doing that."
Smith is staying realistic throughout the recovery process.10 comments on this story
"The steps I'm at now are lifestyle steps," he told Goff. "I'm still working on playing basketball with my kids and running around after my daughter. Those are things I have to conquer anyway until I get to the point where I'm walking on the field. I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited about that challenge. The stronger I get every week, the more I do, the more hopeful I am that that's a real possibility."
He's also kept in perspective his current situation, which has helped Smith stay positive.
"It's crazy looking and it sucks what happened, but at the same time, people out there have it way worse," he said. "Life happens, and for me, I feel like this is a time for me being tested and having a challenge in front of me, and how can I handle it?"