The last count we got on surgeries for Redskins quarterback Alex Smith was six — an alarming amount of operations on the broken leg he suffered on Nov. 18, 2018, against the Houston Texans.
But what if I told you that wasn’t even close to the count?
What if I told you that Alex Smith wound up having 17 surgeries on the right leg that was severely broken that Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field?
That is what Smith told an invited audience of mostly medical professionals attending an Inova Sports Medicine event on Oct. 2 in Fairfax, Virginia, — 17 surgeries, according to someone in attendance who asked not to be identified.
They said there was a “gasp” from the crowd when Smith revealed he had 17 surgeries on the broken leg, the person said.
The 17 surgeries is a dramatically different figure than the six the NFL Network reported in December. Those nearly half-dozen operations were reportedly part of an effort to remove tissue after Smith developed an infection following the operation he had to repair the broken fibula and tibia he suffered in that 23-21 loss to the Texans.
It is not known if all the operations that followed were related to the infections, though the absurd number of operations would indicate that the infections were severe.
Redskins spokesman Sean DeBarbieri said the team does not comment on individual player-specific medical questions. They said they would reach out to Smith, and there was no response as of press time. from Inova officials, through their public relations and crisis communications officer, Tracy Connell, gave this statement: “We were pleased to welcome Alex Smith to the dedication of the Inova Sports Medicine flagship location and appreciate him sharing his heartfelt gratitude to the talented team of Inova physicians and clinicians who have cared for him since his injury.”
This poor guy had a good life in Kansas City, playing for quarterback-friendly Andy Reid and a Chiefs organization that was a perennial winner — 53-27 and four playoff appearances in the five years Smith was in Kansas City. Then came the fateful day in January 2018 (officially two months later) when he was traded to the Redskins, playing for a coach in Jay Gruden that was frozen out of the trade talks and an organization that has been a perennial embarrassment.
Smith’s life hasn’t been the same since.
His time as a Redskin, for all intents and purposes, ended 11 months after that trade when he went down with that gruesome broken leg — his football career likely as well, though Smith has said his goal is to come back to play.
After 17 surgeries, being able to walk normally for the rest of your life should be your goal.
The first time we saw Smith after his broken leg was when he was seen in a wheelchair with his legs covered. Then he was seen at a Wizards game in January wearing a medieval-looking device known as an external fixator.
He reportedly wore that device for eight months, but his wife Elizabeth posted a picture on her Instagram account in July of Smith holding the device, which had been removed. Soon after, we saw Smith at Redskins training camp in Richmond riding in a golf cart and using crutches.
Last month, Smith made an appearance on the field before the “Monday Night Football” game against the Chicago Bears without any crutches or other devices or support.
In a training camp interview with the Redskins, Smith claimed he was pleased with his recovery. “I’m doing well. I am,” he said. “I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been. I’ve continued to progress. I don’t think I’ve ever anticipated what this road would be like, I don’t think I knew what it would be like. It’s longer than I thought. But like I said, I’m still progressing and really optimistic about what is ahead of me.”
What he believes is ahead of him is a possible return to the field — a scenario that, at the age of 35, given the severity of his injury and the complications that followed, is difficult to imagine. But he insisted his goal to play again.
“The older you get, you realize how precious these situations are; that it’s not going to last forever, and trying to make the most of it,” Smith said. “You only have so many years left, and to have this challenge set out in front of me. I mean, how often do you get a challenge like that to overcome? And for me to take it on and not worry about anything else … I still feel like I’m young at heart and got a lot left ahead of me. I want to take that on.”
Smith, a 13-year veteran, came to Washington in a trade with the Chiefs that sent cornerback Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round draft choice to Kansas City.
Smith had one year left on his existing contract. But in a move reeking of arrogance and foolishness, the Redskins immediately gave Smith a four-year, $94 million contract extension. He would lead Washington to a 6-3 record, completing 205 of 308 passes for 2,180 yards, 10 touchdown and five interceptions before his injury — which turned that contract extension into a salary cap nightmare for the franchise.
According to various reports, the Redskins are on the hook for $20 million this year to Smith under their salary cap and another $21.4 million next year.
Then again, what is the price for 17 surgeries on a broken leg?
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