“I felt like the biggest a--hole ever”
Alex Smith’s retirement leaves Ryan Fitzpatrick as one of only three players from the 2005 NFL draft class under contract for the 2021 season (along with Aaron Rodgers and Richie Incognito). Fitzpatrick was actually in the process of recording an episode of Chris Long’s podcast Green Light when his phone lit up with the news that Smith was hanging it up, so Long turned the conversation toward Smith and his career.
Fitzpatrick said Smith “was always really nice to me” and then shared a story about a time he tried to repay Smith’s kindness but saw his attempt backfire.
After Smith’s gruesome leg injury in 2018, Fitzpatrick was reminded of the time he fractured his tibia in 2014 with the Texans, so he decided to reach out to Smith with a few words of encouragement. But the text he sent ended up being “one of my biggest regrets to date.”
“The single worst tweet—or, not tweet, I’ve never tweeted—the single worst text I ever sent, I sent it to Alex,” Fitzpatrick said. “I said, ‘Hey Alex, just want to let you know they’ll fix you right up, you’ll be good as new. I’m out here and I don’t feel any pain from my injury four years later.’
“I sent it and felt good about it and he said, ‘Well mine might be a little more complicated.’ And seventeen surgeries later and the story of what he had to overcome, I mean, I felt like the biggest a--hole ever.
“It was incredible for him to get back on the field and I was very happy after sending that text that he didn’t lose his leg.”
How could Fitzpatrick have known just how severe Smith’s injury was? For 99% of players who break their leg, the recovery is like Fitzpatrick’s. You have the surgery, you let it heal, you rehab and you’re back on the field good as new. Smith was in that 1% of cases where things go terribly wrong.
In light of that, Fitzpatrick said he was inspired by seeing Smith complete his comeback and play last season.
“I don’t want to speak for Alex but I’ll say, I assume that it was such a huge personal challenge for him to prove that he could do it, that he could come all the way back,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think it was a really inspirational story for a lot of people watching him do that.”
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