It was just a six-yard pass, but it may have been the most impressive play in NFL history. Alex Smith’s return to the NFL last season was not just unlikely, it seemed impossible two years ago. Doctors had nearly amputated his leg after a routine tackle shattered his tibia and fibula. But there he was, back under center barking out play calls again.
But now it seems he’s proven all he needs to prove on the football field. The Washington quarterback said he’s retiring after 16 years in the league to spend more time with his wife and three children. He announced his retirement Monday in an Instagram video.
“Two years ago I was stuck in a wheelchair, staring down at my mangled leg, wondering if I would ever be able to go on a walk again or play with my kids in the yard,” Smith said in a video. “ … But football wouldn’t let me give up. Because, no, this isn’t just a game. It’s not just what happens between those white lines on a Sunday afternoon. It’s about the challenges and the commitment they require, about how hard and how far you can push yourself, about the bond between those 53 guys in the locker room, and everybody else in the organization. And It’s about fully committing yourself to something bigger.”
Smith detailed to 60 Minutes earlier this year the 17 surgeries and nearly two years of rehab he underwent to fix the spiral fractures to his leg bones. An injury so severe doctors seriously considered amputating his leg as the damage threatened his life. But he endured for the chance to prove he could make it back onto an NFL field.
Alex Smith Considered Staying In NFL
NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler told ESPN in February that Alex Smith had hoped another team would pick him up in the off-season.
“I’m told that Alex Smith after a great comeback year, going 5-2 down the stretch, he does want to continue playing football,” Fowler said on SportsCenter. “He’s leaning that way, but he’s got a large cap hit. Washington could save $13.6 million if they did move on. And many people around the league believe their answer at quarterback is not in the building. So maybe they could work something out with Smith, but he does want to play somewhere.”
Washington cut the 36-year-old veteran in March to save on cap space. With his age and injury history, it was unlikely another team would take a flyer on him. But the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft out of the University of Utah seemed at peace with his decision to step away from the game.
“Even though I’ve got plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I’ve got, I can’t wait to see what else is possible,” he said in the video. “But first, I’m going to take a little time to enjoy a few of those walks with my wife. And my kids have no idea what’s coming for them in the backyard.”