It's all but assured that Alex Smith is going to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award — they should honestly consider renaming the award after him.
After overcoming not just career-ending but life-ending injuries to step onto the football field and play a snap again, Smith wrapped up that award at the midway point of the season. But now that the regular season is over, accepting any awards is the farthest thing from his mind.
Instead, Smith is preparing for his return to the postseason where he will lead the underdog Washington Football Team in its wild card game against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kickoff if set for 6:15 p.m. MT from Washington and will be broadcast on NBC.
"Everything was stacked against us, going into the offseason, coaching change, new staff, all the COVID stuff," Smith said. "For us to get off to a slow start but to finish it off like this, I think, says a lot about the character we have in that locker room. Day in and day out, we go to work."
It's nearly unfathomable to believe that Smith will be back into the postseason after the leg injury he sustained over two years ago.
Four days prior to that Thanksgiving in 2018, Smith tragically broke his leg, fracturing his tibia and fibula in his right leg when Houston Texans all-pro defensive lineman JJ Watt sacked him from behind and fell on his leg in an incredibly awkward manner.
When it was all said and done, Smith underwent 17 surgeries to control and stop the spread of the infection. He not only nearly had his leg amputated multiple times, Smith was close to losing his life.
But he eventually returned to the field this past fall and thrived, taking over a struggling Washington team and leading this a 5-1 record in games he's started, including winning his past five starts.
The postseason is where Smith shines, having made the playoffs in five seasons. He has posted a career 14-2 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio, completing 62.7% of his passes for 249.3 yards per game.
His experience in the postseason will be vital for a young Washington team that's in the playoffs for the first time since 2015 when it lost 35-18 to Green Bay.
The team is led by a dominating defense that has one of the best pass rushes in the game, led by potential NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in Chase Young. He finished the regular season with 7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles.
With that unit expected to keep the high-octane Tampa Bay offense somewhat in check, it will be up to Smith and star wide receive Terry McLaurin to help Washington keep pace.
"Seeing a guy like that who has been through as much as he has, but he continues to fight and help this team. ... You can't give him enough credit," McLaurin said following's last Sunday's NFC East clinching victory over Philadelphia. "I like to see myself built the same way: do whatever you can to help this team. I was just happy to be out here with my team, to be here with Alex, and to get this win, for all that we've been through as a team, all that he's been through individually. This one's pretty sweet."
Regardless of what happens Saturday night for Smith and Washington, this season will be deemed a success.
Smith's comeback then proved how tough this team truly is as they've embodied everything the quarterback has gone through to overcome their own struggles. After starting the season 1-5, Washington rebounded to go 6-4 the rest of the way and win the NFC East after defeating Philadelphia 20-14 in the regular season finale.
Now they'll face the GOAT of quarterbacks in a game they have no business winning. Just don't tell Smith and co. that, they've been hearing it all season and continue to not believe it.
"We got a feel for who we are, how tough and resilient we can be," Washington coach Ron Rivera said. "Now let's see how they handle it. That's the next thing. Don't judge us from where we've been; judge us for where we're going. This is a big opportunity for us."
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