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Quarterback Alex Smith announces retirement after miracle-comeback season

Smith suffered a life-threatening injury in 2018 but made a remarkable comeback for what would be his final year in the NFL.

Alex Smith in action for the Washington Football Team.
Alex Smith in action for the Washington Football Team.
Image: Rich Schultz

NFL QUARTERBACK ALEX Smith has announced his retirement from American football after a 2020 season which saw him named Comeback Player of the Year.

The 36-year-old, a free agent who had been linked with a move to the Jacksonville Jaguars as recently as today, posted a video message on his Instagram page confirming that while he had “plenty of snaps” left in him, he had decided to call time on his 16-year professional career.

The first overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, Smith played from 2005 to 2012 with the San Francisco 49ers, from 2013 to 2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs and in 2018 and 2020 with Washington.

During his penultimate season in the American capital, the former Heisman Trophy finalist suffered a spiral and compound fracture to his tibia and fibula in his right leg when he was sacked by Kareem Jackson and J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.

Following an intial surgery, Smith developed life-threatening necrotising fasciitis that resulted in sepsis which required him to undergo 17 further surgeries, including eight debridements. These occurred across four separate hospital stays in a nine-month period.

Despite initial recommendations that an amputation above the knee might be his only course of action, doctors were instead able to perform skin grafts and an operation transferring muscle from his left quadriceps to save his damaged right leg.

He missed the entire 2019 season but returned to the field with Washington in 2020 in what was one of the most remarkable comebacks from injury in the history of elite sport. However, he was released by Washington following the 2020 season despite having two years left on his contract, a move which saved the team $14.9 million against the salary cap.

Three-time Pro Bowler Smith is 27th all time in the NFL with 35,650 career passing yards. He appeared in 174 total games, throwing 199 touchdown passes.

“Two years ago I was stuck in a wheelchair, staring down at my mangled leg, wondering if I would ever be able to go on a walk again or play games with my kids in the yard,” Smith said in his Instagram video.

“Putting my helmet back on was the furthest thing from my mind. I just kept asking myself: ‘All of this for a stupid game?’

“But then, somebody did something that changed my recovery completely: he put a football back in my hands. I don’t know what it was, but all of a sudden, I felt stronger, more driven, and what once seeemd impossible began to come into focus.

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“And the truth is, over the course of my life, that’s what this game has done for me. I was a skinny, no-name recruit who wasn’t even supposed to play in college, never mind go to New York (the NFL Draft) as a Heisman finalist or be the first one to have his name called on Draft night.

“And then, on a routine play, I almost lost everything. But football wouldn’t let me give up. Because, no, this isn’t just a game. It’s not just what happens between those white lines on a Sunday afternoon. It’s about the challenges and the commitment they require. It’s about how hard and how far you can push yourself. It’s about the bond between those 53 guys in the locker room and everybody else in the organisation. It’s about fully committing yourself to something bigger.

“And most of all, it’s about you (the fans). So, to everyone out there, whether you’re a part of Niner Nation, the Chiefs Kingdom, or the Burgundy and Gold, I thank you.

“To all the men I has the privilege of standing with and playing alongside, thank you. I want to say thank you for believing in me and thank you for helping me believe in myself — and in the impossible.

Because even though I have plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I’ve got, I can’t wait to see what else is possible. But first, I’m going to take a little time to enjoy a few of those walks with my wife, and my kids have no idea what’s coming for them in the backyard.

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