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Alex Smith’s public appearance creates further questions about playing future

January 23, 2019 GMT

Alex Smith’s first public appearance since his gruesome season-ending Nov. 18injury raised more questions than answers. The Redskins quarterback was on crutches and appeared Monday to be in good spirits, but can he be back under center in just eight months?

Redskins team president Bruce Allen said that remains to be seen, but added Smith was on his way to recovery.

“It’s a tough thing for him and his family, but all the love and care has helped him quite a bit,” Allen told reporters on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. “We’ll see where it goes. We’re optimistic. If anyone can come back it’s Alex. I’m sure he wanted to shoot hoops at the game yesterday, but we’ll see.”

In his appearance as a spectator at a Washington Wizards home game on Monday, Smith was seen with what was identified as a ring external fixator surgically implanted in his leg. The device is used to stabilize broken bones.


The fixator, not to be confused with a brace, had wires that pierced through Smith’s leg and were connected to the outer rings of the device.

Dr. James Gladstone, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said the device is often used until “the bones are fused” back together. It is not known how long Smith has had the external fixator, but Gladstone said it’s usually removed after anywhere from six weeks to three months.

Smith suffered the tibia and fibula fractures nine weeks ago in a game against the Houston Texans. He was originally given a recovery timetable of 6-8 months, but the 34-year-old suffered a post-op infection stemming from multiple surgeries, complicating the process.

“The basic function is to keep the bones in the proper alignment,” Gladstone said. “And you keep them there until they’ve healed. ... The other thing it does, it doesn’t compromise the soft tissues in the area.”

Redskins’ boss Allen did not indicate if Smith needed additional procedures moving forward, but Smith’s fracture was serious. It was reported he suffered a compound spiral fracture, meaning the bone broke in a twisting fashion, as opposed to a clean line, and punctured the skin.

In December, the NFL Network added Smith has had close to a “half dozen” surgeries, including a procedure to remove a surgically impaired plate after it was infected.

The setbacks have raised the possibility that Smith might not be ready for the start of next season, or even worse, that his football career could be done.

Gladstone said there are a number of factors to consider when projecting if Smith can return to the field: How the bone heals, whether the muscles around the leg need to be rehabilitated and whether Smith’s fracture affects the mobility of his ankle.


Washington’s only other quarterback under contract is veteran Colt McCoy. In Mobile, Alabama, quarterback prospects like Penn State’s Trace McSorley and Duke’s Daniel Jones said Tuesday they have met with the Redskins in lead up to Saturday’s Senior Bowl. McCoy is also coming off a broken leg, although his injury was less severe than Smith’s.

“We like Colt a lot and that’s why we signed him to the extension last year,” Allen said. “Unfortunate for him once again. ... Colt’s going be ready to go at the beginning of the offseason program and I’m sure he’s looking forward to competing for the starting job.”

Do the Redskins envision Smith being a contributor when planning for next season?

“We don’t have to make that decision right now,” Allen said. “We have some time until free agency and some time ’til the draft. I think Doug (Williams) and his group will rank all the players and we’ll try to build a winning team for 2019.”