Washington issued a lovely good luck in your retirement to Alex Smith in a press release last week. They probably thought it would be the last time that they had to issue a press release on the retiring former player. It seemed almost metallic to read at the time. Perhaps it felt that way to the quarterback as well.
Not only did Smith not go gently into that good night, he is the subject of many-to-most of the Washington headlines in the last 24 hours.
A terrific article from Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop, got the party started yesterday.
In the piece, Bishop delves into every aspect of Smith’s unlikeliest of returns. The gruesome aspects of the recovery. Smith’s difficulty to even look at the injury. The possibility of amputation.
The limb is a medical miracle, a combination of body parts stitched together, bolted in place. It’s darker than the rest of his body, shaded red, no longer straight and covered in scars that look like a baseball’s stitching. Chunks of flesh and tendon, with veins protruding from kneecap to ankle; they’re stacked like Jenga blocks, offering a confusing reminder that Smith, now 36, actually, willingly, played professional football while balancing on a body part that’s badass, bionic and horrific all at once. I confess that I can’t square the image and the inspirational story behind its existence.
And in no uncertain terms, the article lays out that Smith felt that his return didn’t seem to be what the organization wanted. Smith talks specifically about some of the menial things that he was asked to do at training camp.
It’s easy to understand the frustration for the quarterback who went to hell and back, just to put himself in a position to play football again.
Summarily, Smith thought he shouldn’t have to physically prove to the coaching staff that he was ready to go. The Washington team doctor, Dr. Robin West, had told the team that Smith was clear on multiple occasions.
In response to the article, Washington issued the following statement through a team spokesperson:
“I was scared to death about putting [Alex] back out there and that is something I struggled with every day. It’s unfortunate that he feels we patronized him because I can tell you that was not our intention. 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. He not only made it back onto the field but led us to the playoffs. It was a truly remarkable feat.” – Ron Rivera
Taking the high road.
That’s also easy to understand. After all, there was a tangible gasp – everywhere – every time Smith dropped back into a collapsing pocket upon his return. It’s tough to say if that would ever totally go away.
But it went away for Alex Smith.
The guy who had the most to lose, managed to put it behind him. The guy with the mangled leg, never looked scared.
You could argue that he had lost mobility, sure, but Smith seemed oblivious to the perils others perceived.
That’s why he won Comeback Player Of The Year. Given the extent of the injury, the effect of the infection, and the gravity of the potential outcome – he’d get plenty of votes, that he made the greatest comeback in NFL history.
The league celebrated the grandiosity of the comeback. The team jumped right in beside them.
How must Smith have felt to watch the organization join in the media frenzy of celebrating his miraculous comeback?
When to him, they themselves had not believed in him.
Then the axe fell, and he was flat out released this offseason. To the fanfare of another thanks for coming out press release.
Not finding a solution that he was comfortable with on the free agent market, Smith retired earlier this week.
The team, this one from Dan and Tanya Snyder. There was nothing wrong with the statement, except the apparent irony of not wanting to employ the guy, that you’re falling over to pat on the back.
Maybe that just felt… metallic.
Because Alex Smith always believed in Alex Smith.
And not just in a press release.