Alex Smith told coaches he wanted to play again, showed them it was possible and earned a roster spot to prove it.
Smith made Washington’s initial 53-man roster Saturday after final cuts were made, another significant step in his remarkable comeback 22 months since breaking his right leg.
Coach Ron Rivera said the veteran quarterback is on the team and there’s no plan to put Smith on injured reserve in the coming days. Smith might even be Dwayne Haskins’ backup in the season opener Sept. 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He was very passionate about wanting the opportunity to play again, very passionate about making this football team,” Rivera said. “He believes he’s ready to play. If the opportunity comes down the line, who knows? I do know this: He’s working. He’s in the middle of everything and we’re going to continue to go forward with him on our football team.”
Smith’s career appeared to be in jeopardy when he broke his right tibia and fibula while being tackled during a game in November 2018. He underwent 17 surgeries to repair that damage, survived a life-threatening infection and was hospitalized for more than a month.
Now, he’s running the second team in 11-on-11 drills in practice after being fully cleared for football activities and contact in August. Rivera said Smith hasn’t gotten hit by teammates in practice, which is the norm for quarterbacks, but that the 36-year-old looks prepared for contact that would come his way if he got into another NFL game.
“That’s part of the thing that you worry about, is that quarterbacks go in there and some of them get shy and they don’t stand tall and they kind of pull out or make bad throws,” Rivera said. “He stood tall. Guys were all over the place and he stood tall and delivered some good balls, some good passes. To me, that was one of the things I was looking to see because I kept watching.”
Smith making the team means Washington has three quarterbacks, though his progress could mean Kyle Allen is No. 3 on the depth chart. Rivera did not commit to Smith being No. 2, but his skepticism of a comeback attempt is gone.
“We never got into a position where we felt we had to give him a long period off, which is always a good thing,” Rivera said. “He just continued to work and show us what he was capable of.”
Another player coming back from injury, linebacker Reuben Foster, landed on injured reserve Saturday after not looking like himself during training camp. Foster, 26, tore the ACL and caused additional damage to his left knee during offseason workouts in May 2019 and missed all of last season.
“Things were coming back,” Rivera said. “He kind of plateaued, and that was one of the things we were concerned with. It’s one of those things where you have to continue to work out and get stronger and stronger. He just hadn’t reached that point.”
Washington’s biggest surprise roster move came Friday when the team released running back Adrian Peterson. Safety Sean Davis, a free agent signing, and receiver Trey Quinn were among those cut Saturday to reach the 53-man roster limit.