The Washington Football Team, between Ron Rivera‘s cancer battle and now Alex Smith‘s comeback Sunday from his life-threatening injury two years ago, have become the NFL’s Hallmark card team — if Freddy Krueger were creating that card.
The Smith comeback, 693 days after he suffered a gruesome broken leg against the Houston Texans in 2018 that required 17 surgeries to fully repair, was the feel-good moment of the day Sunday at Ghost Town Field against the Los Angeles Rams.
But he was coming back to play football, and there was little of that exhibited by Smith or his teammates in their 30-10 loss to the Rams.
“Pretty good,” Rivera said when asked after the game how he thought Alex Smith did coming in the game after starter Kyle Allen went down with an injury in the second quarter. “I thought he came out and did some of the things that we need him to do.”
Run for his life, I presume, was one of those things.
Smith was sacked six times, which meant six heart-stopping moments for those who were watching and feared for the health of this 36-year-old father of three whose family was there in the stands at the stadium to see this moment that few believed would ever take place.
All around social media, there were messages of joy and elation at the notion that Smith had come so far to achieve this moment.
But then he had to play football, and that didn’t go so well — 9 for 17 for 37 yards, a nightmare contest for Smith and Washington Football.
“I was taking it all in,” Smith said. “I was prepped and prepared. I wish it could have gone better, especially, the second half.”
Was that worth it? Was the risk, at this age after 13 years in the NFL and more money than he will likely ever be able to spend — $94 million just from the Washington Football Team alone?
“I did get to see my family,” Smith said. “It was nice. I appreciated them being there … very cool to have my kids out there.”
I cringe at the narrative from Smith himself that he is doing this in part to teach his children the lesson of perseverance, courage and determination. Does it really require this man to take such a risk to teach his children those lessons? From what I know about Smith, they have likely already learned those lessons.
Smith got his chance to complete his comeback because Rivera had not only benched Dan Snyder’s prize quarterback Dwayne Haskins last week, but buried him, putting him third behind Allen and Smith on the depth chart.
That meant Haskins would be inactive for Sunday, but he really became inactive when he reportedly developed a stomach virus and was told by team doctors to stay home. He has been dealing with his illness for a few days, according to Julie Donaldson, the team’s vice president of media and content. He reportedly tested negative for COVID-19.
If Haskins had this virus for a few days, was he around Rivera — whose immune system is compromised by the chemotherapy and radiation treatments he is undergoing to deal with his squamous cell carcinoma? As I said last week, it is equally as cringe worthy to think Rivera is putting himself at risk, given the COVID-19 outbreaks in the NFL and the numbers that show the virus continues to strike more than 50,000 people daily, with a surge likely coming.
Risk himself for this? Four straight double digit losses, including Sunday’s, where his team managed just 10 first downs offensively and 108 total yards.
“It was difficult when you’re behind,” Rivera said. “It’s almost unfair.”
The reality is we didn’t see much of anything from Smith that we hadn’t seen before in his 10 games in 2018. In their six wins with Smith, the team started out with a lead and never fell behind. In their three losses, they had to play from behind and were faced with doing so when Smith was hurt against Houston.
Now, though, presumably, according to Rivera, Washington Football faces the winnable part of their schedule — next week in New York against the Giants, followed by the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants again, the Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Haskins? His days wearing Joe Theismann’s No. 7 jersey in Washington are likely coming to an end, after a Washington Post story reported Haskins’ work ethic was called into question by coaches. He will probably have to go someplace else to show how the league done messed up.
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