Steve Helber/Associated Press
The unthinkable happened Sunday when Alex Smith played in an NFL game again.
Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury nearly two years ago that required 17 surgeries to rectify. When the Washington Football Team’s Kyle Allen, who started instead of Dwayne Haskins Jr., endured a head-on collision with Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Smith entered the contest and didn’t leave.
In the 30-10 loss, the 36-year-old signal-caller completed nine of 17 passes for 37 yards. But Smith’s actual performance didn’t matter to many, including his counterpart on the other sideline Sunday.
“That is really one of the most amazing things, I think—not only that we’ve ever seen, but one of the most amazing things in football history, is him getting back from that injury and coming back,” Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff told reporters.
How should Smith’s return to professional football be viewed?
Brad Gagnon: C
It’s never good when 61 percent of one’s dropbacks result in incomplete passes or sacks, and his longest completion gained 12 yards. Still, it was a tough spot, and his comeback story is worth something.
Brent Sobleski: A
The mere fact everyone outside of those within the Smith household believed the quarterback’s career was over only to see him get cleared by doctors for football activities this summer then make the regular-season roster then serve as the backup then take the field as Washington’s quarterback makes his comeback the best sports story in a long time. Unfortunately, the team’s offensive line couldn’t hold up to turn this into a true fairytale ending.
Gary Davenport: A
OK, so Smith’s numbers against the Rams weren’t good—in part because Aaron Donald was in the backfield approximately 137 percent of the time. But just seeing him on the playing field again after a grisly leg injury and subsequent infections nearly ended not just his playing career but also his life was one of the highlights of Week 5. If Washington is done with Dwayne Haskins Jr., start the veteran the rest of the way.
Kalyn Kahler: A
Smith could do anything on the field and I would grade this out as an A. The man nearly lost his leg, and not even two years later, he’s back out there getting sacked by Aaron freakin’ Donald! He’s the Comeback Player of the Year even if he never takes another snap. I don’t agree with Washington’s decision to demote Dwayne Haskins Jr. to third-string quarterback because it felt premature for an extremely young quarterback in a new offense, and it doesn’t seem like there is much of a long-term plan for him. If he doesn’t get significant reps in practice, how will he improve? I think Haskins gives Washington a better chance to win than Smith does, but it was nice to see the veteran achieve his dream of getting back out there and playing.
Master Tesfatsion: D
I’m really glad Alex Smith was able to have a successful recovery from one of the most gruesome injuries you’ll see in sports, but seeing him back on that field was one of the most uncomfortable feelings I’ve ever had watching football. He’s been cleared by independent and team doctors to play, and the titanium rod in his leg is supposed to be able to sustain collisions, but it did not feel good wondering if it could sustain horrendous pass protection. Smith was sacked six times by the Rams and Aaron Donald, who at one point in the game was riding on Smith’s back before taking him down. I’m glad he was able to accomplish what he set out to prove: that he could return to the field again after 17 surgeries. I just hope he doesn’t have to go under the knife again.
Matt Miller: A+
Give him the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award right now. Smith’s ability to fight back from nearly losing his leg to actually completing passes in a real NFL game is a story I can’t get enough of.