Alex Smith is still years away from playing in NFL, Theismann says

Ben Krimmel
June 22, 2019 - 3:40 pm

On the heels of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith saying he still hopes to play in the NFL, former Skins quarterback Joe Theismann told 106.7 The Fan Saturday he believes Smith is still years away from returning to the field and added he would be surprised if Smith is ever able to play football again.

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"In Alex's case, it is a long road, it is a tough road. And I would be surprised if he plays again just because of the age factor," Theismann told Nick Ashooh and Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan. 

"When it comes to Alex's rehab, having gone through it, it's a two-year process. So, from the time he really starts to step back on a football field, you have to figure two years." 

In his first public comments since breaking his leg in Nov. 2018, Smith said it was still his plan to play football again.

"I'm looking forward to it, I'm excited about that challenge. The stronger I get every week, the more I do, the more hopeful I am that that's a real possibility," Smith said in an interview released Friday. 

"(There are some) steps, I've got to conquer some more steps before I get there. Learn to run again. That's a big one. I'm already throwing. I already feel like throwing is not a problem. I feel like I can throw. But dropping, moving around, all that kind of stuff, change of direction," Smith said.

But for Theismann, who suffered a gruesome leg injury of his own in 1985, Smith's recovery is more than just learning to run again.

"God bless him, I know we want him to come back, I want him to be healthy, but it's more than just being able to run. It's the throwing mechanism that'll be affected. And how long will that take?" he said Saturday.

"He's another two months away from really starting to rehab. And then you run into the adhesions that are built up around the ankle because you haven't been able to flex the ankle. So that's another element, there's multiple issues that you have to go along with."


Smith, who signed a four-year, $94 million deal with the Redskins before the 2018 season, is still under contract with the team through at least the next two seasons. (Washington has a potential out after the 2020 season when his contract's dead cap total drops to $10.8 million.)

Theismann went on to explain the many hurdles and obstacles Smith faces during his long road back to football including the many mechanical and mental challenges the 35-year-old Redskins quarterback will need to overcome before he can continue his NFL career. 

"The problem you run into is the mechanics of throwing the football," Theismann said. 

"When you think about throwing the football people focus on the arm, but it's really the entire body, predominately the legs... it's all about the footwork, it's all about the leg power," he said. "When you break your right leg, you lose the power to be able to be part of that 100 percent of the throwing mechanism, that was the problem that I ran into. I started getting soreness in a part of my arms that I never had before. And it was because it had to make up for the 10, 15 percent that I lost in my leg, (it) had to come from somewhere."  

"From the mechanical standpoint – throwing the football, having the power to do it, being comfortable with being able to do it – that's a longer road."

Theismann notes arm strength, which wasn't one of Smith's strongest suits before the injury, will be impacted going forward.

"He never had the strongest arm, anyway. It was a good arm, it was a solid arm, wouldn't qualify it as a great arm nor would you mine. And that's gonna be affected as time goes forward," he said. "You feel like you can go out and do it but it's a whole different world once you get into the speed of the game, especially today."

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said during OTAs Smith was "recovering nicely, slowly but surely."

“It’s going to be a little bit of time, but soon as he’s able to, he’ll push it and get himself ready. We’ll just have to wait and see. It’s going to be a pretty lengthy process, for the most part.

And that's just the physical side of the recovery. What about the mental side of having to get back out there at FedEx Field?

"It will be a couple of years. Once you get out there and things start flying around it's a little bit like riding a bike. You get pretty comfortable again," Theismann said, before admitting he never had the chance to play in the NFL after his injury. "I felt like I'd be able to do it... but the one thing that you can't predict is what's it gonna be like." 

"What happens when you go up for a jump shot that first time you come down on that leg?" Theismann said referencing a basketball player returning from a devastating leg injury. "Do you favor the other leg, does it cause a problem with the other leg?"

Smith admitted to having doubts during his first interview.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say mental obstacles, there are things with my leg I don't trust yet," Smith told Angie Goff. "I feel I'm quite a bit further along than I think."

Even in the face of the long odds and tough road ahead, Smith remains positive about a potential return. 

"It sucks what happened, but at the same time, people out there have it way worse," he said. "Life happens, and for me, I feel like this is a time for me being tested and having a challenge in front of me, and how can I handle it?"

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