In a new profile with Sports Illustrated, the recently retired quarterback told the outlet that he found Washington’s coaches to be “patronizing” when it came to his determination to come back from a life-threatening leg injury. This is now the second time Smith has indicated that he was not completely happy with how the team handled his return to football. He’d previously told GQ Magazine he felt Ron Rivera and the coaching staff “didn’t want” him.
Washington, Smith says, preferred a “cute story” to a situation in which the veteran quarterback was given an actual shot at playing and leading the team. Doug Smith, Alex’s father, went even further, telling SI that the franchise “sabotaged” his son’s attempt to play football again.
Smith said he felt like the team was trying to “break him” — testing his surgically repaired right leg to see if it could handle the grueling conditions of football. Washington had the 36-year-old carry extra weight, push sleds and hurdle bags — “tasks he had never done in 15 pro seasons,” the magazine writes. Washington used GPS trackers and Smith racked up 4,000 yards of movement per day during training camp — the most of any other player on the team.
Dr. Robin West, Washington’s former team doctor who stepped down this offseason, told the magazine that coaches would doublecheck to make sure Smith had received clearance to play. She added she got “very little support” from the coaching staff after giving her medical opinion.
Rivera said in a statement to SI that he was “scared to death” about playing Smith, but did not intend for the quarterback to feel patronized.
“At the end of the day, I commend Alex because he proved everyone wrong and exceeded any reasonable expectations that anyone had set for him,” Rivera said. “He not only made it back onto the field but led us to the playoffs. It was a truly remarkable feat.”
Smith went 5-1 as a starter, helping Washington to the postseason. On Monday, he announced he was retiring from football after 16 years. Smith spent three seasons with Washington, breaking his leg in horrific fashion during a game against the Houston Texans in November 2018. The injury required 17 surgeries and Smith developed an infection that almost cost him his life.
Smith said he understood the coaches’ hesitancy, but took issue with their approach. He was displeased with the way the team initially put him on the Physically Unable to Perform list to open camp.
“I’d rather have somebody right in my face say, ‘What are you thinking?’” Smith says. “It pissed me off.”
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