Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith hasn't abandoned hope of playing football again after suffering a devastating leg injury in November -- even though he will have an external fixator on his right leg for at least another month.
In his first public comments since the injury, Smith told Fox 5 DC's Angie Goff that he still wants to play. Smith suffered a compound fracture in his right leg during a Nov. 18 loss to the Houston Texans. He endured multiple surgeries because of an infection, and amputation became an option at one point, sources have said.
But now Smith feels good enough to at least consider returning, even if multiple hurdles remain and the team views the possibility as a long shot.
"That's the plan," he told Goff on her Oh My Goff podcast, which was published Friday. "There are steps I've got to conquer before I get there. ... Learning to run again. That's a big one. I'm already throwing. Throwing isn't a problem, but dropping [back], moving around, change of direction."
Smith, 35, said he must wear the external fixator for at least another four to six weeks, which would put the total time in the contraption at around 7½ months. Smith remains realistic about his future.
"The steps I'm at now are lifestyle steps," he said. "I'm still working on playing basketball with my kids and running around after my daughter. Those are things I have to conquer anyway until I get to the point where I'm walking on the field. 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."
The Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins in the first round of the draft, pegging him as their quarterback of the future. They did so knowing the long road Smith faced and that, even if he does return, he might not be the same quarterback he was before the injury. Smith's running ability was a big part of his game.
Smith signed a four-year contract worth up to $94 million, with $71 million guaranteed, in 2018. The Redskins never planned to cut him this offseason, uncertain about his playing future and also knowing they would take an approximate cap hit of $40 million, accounting for a $12 million insurance policy. They could cut him after this season but would still incur a hit of $20 million, once again getting some relief with insurance.
Smith told Goff he had played golf earlier that morning and then went through physical therapy. He called it his most active day since the injury. They later played a game of dodgeball, with Smith stationary, in a local mall.
He called the past three months "life-changing" because he could start driving again and was off crutches.
"The first four months were really, really hard," he said. "Just to be in a wheelchair as long as I was. When you have independence and lose it ... that was the hardest part."
He credited the effect the external fixator has had on his recovery.
"This thing is gonna save my leg, save my bone, allow me to heal and walk again and hopefully play football again," Smith said.
Smith told Goff that "every week or two weeks" he is doing something in physical therapy that he didn't think he could. It could be a physical or mental hurdle.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say mental obstacles, there are things with my leg I don't trust yet," Smith said. "I feel I'm quite a bit further along than I think."
That progress, and a desire to focus more on what he must do each day, has helped him stay positive.
"It's crazy looking and 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?"