On Nov. 18, 2018, Houston Texans defenders, JJ Watt and Kareem Jackson sacked Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, a play resulting in a gruesome broken leg. After 17 surgeries and a near amputation, doctors have cleared Smith to resume football activities, prompting celebration from Watt. The Texans defender reacted to the news by saying that he is rooting for the quarterback.
"Just saw that Alex Smith has been cleared for full football activity, what an incredible return. Couldn't be happier to hear it, truly rooting for his success," Watt tweeted on Friday evening. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year did not intend to hurt Smith, but the freak accident occurred during a pivotal moment of the game. He is forever linked to the play, much like New York Giants linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson are tied to Washington Redskins QB Joe Theismann's nearly-identical injury 33 years prior.
The play occurred midway through the third quarter of the 2018 game. The Texans held a 17-7 lead, but Smith had Washington deep in enemy territory. When Watt and Jackson sacked Smith on third down, his right ankle bent awkwardly. He remained on the ground in evident pain until the physicians put an air cast on his leg and carted him to the locker room.
Smith underwent 17 surgeries following his injury and nearly lost his leg in the process. This includes surgeons removing infection in his fibula and tibia after the initial surgery. There were times when Smith said that he remained uncertain about a return to football, but he returned to the practice field in October 2019 and threw some passes with a compression sleeve on his leg.
Smith has spent recent months in Hawaii with his family in preparation for the NFL season. He returned to Washington for another series of X-rays and a CT scan to determine if he has made enough progress. He met with his team of doctors, and they agreed that he can return to a high level of physical activity.
"Everyone was in agreement that my bone was in a really good place," Smith said, per ESPN. "I had healed a lot. They said that given the combination of the rod and where I was with the healing process, I had zero limitations and could even resume some football activities. To hear them say that, from a life standpoint, they wouldn't restrict me from doing anything — I could go skiing or snowboarding tomorrow if I wanted — then on top of that, to get the green light that I could practice, get contact, that I had healed up, that much was pretty wild to hear. I didn't know if I would ever hear those words."
Smith can not immediately hit the practice field with his teammates, however. He must meet with team physicians on Monday and undergo a physical. If cleared, Smith will have a clear path to return to Washington's active roster.