The Loop

Graphic new images of Alex Smith's leg injury prove he is the toughest SOB in football

Washington Redskins  and the Houston Texans

The Washington Post

It's November 18th, 2018. 33 years to the day since Joe Theismann had his leg snapped by Lawerence Taylor on national TV. The Redskins trail the Texans by 10, but they're driving. Third and nine, a pivotal play. Alex Smith takes the snap out of the shotgun. The Texans blitz. Two rushers converge and Smith has no choice but to eat the football as the pair collapse on top of him. He goes down. He stays down.

It would be awhile before he got back up again.

On that seemingly ordinary play, one that defines the NFL weekend in, weekend out, Smith suffered both a spiral fracture and compound fracture in his right leg. He was carted off in a boot, in tears, and immediately rushed into surgery due to the high infection risk a compound fracture risk poses. A few days later, the infection doctors had feared set in. Another surgery. Another setback. A pattern that would repeat again and again over the course of the coming months. It didn't take a crystal ball or a PhD to read between lines: Alex Smith was fighting for his leg, at the very least.

We haven't heard much about Smith since then. The Redskins drafted Dwayne Haskins Jr. in 2019 to be their quarterback of the future. The football machine churned on. But now, nearly 18 months since Smith's catastrophic injury, ESPN is set to reveal new details of the former number one pick's long, winding, uphill road to recovery in a new E:60 documentary 'Project 11'. As it turns out, despite describing Smith's injury as "horrific" and "gruesome" and "career-threatening" repeatedly over the past year and a half, we had no idea how bad it really was.

That's Smith's leg nearly a year after his initial injury. That's Alex Smith recounting the removal of a thigh-long quad muscle from his left leg to aid the reconstruction of its opposite, not to mention the various skin grafts that occurred over the course of 17 his surgeries. And that's the tame stuff.

On Monday night, an image of Smith's leg four days after his initial surgery began making the rounds on Twitter. At the time of the photo, the aforementioned infection had spiraled out of control. Suffice to say, had Smith not been a professional athlete (with professional athlete resources), he probably wouldn't have been given the choice to keep his leg. We're gonna share that image with you here not for gross-out points, but to emphasize just how tough (and lucky) of a motherf—ker Alex Smith really is. It is extremely graphic and NSFW, even if you're WFH.

Seriously, we're warning you . . .

No one would judge you if you backed out now . . .

Last chance . . .

[Everybody exhaleeeeeeee] In the new doc, which promises to make 'The Last Dance' look like 'Space Jam,' Smith is up front about his goals: He wants to play football again. Jim Harbaugh calls this guy "tough as a two-dollar steak," and after seeing this, we finally understand what the hell he's talking about. But at the same time, we can't help but ask why? Alex Smith has more career passing yards than Steve Young and more career touchdowns than Troy Aikman. He's been a victim of crappy timing—in San Francisco with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick and Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes—but he has nothing left to prove and a hell of a lot to risk. If you can stomach it, go look at that photo again. Football did that and we wants to play more of it.

That said, as far we're concerned, this man deserves whatever this man wants. So someone, give him a training camp spot. Put him in the red pinny, let him fling a couple around and find his closure. There's no doubting his leadership and toughness. There's no question that he's earned it.