Three weeks after Alex Smith suffered a devastating leg injury during the Redskins' loss to the Texans, the quarterback is dealing with an infection that has kept him in the hospital and raised concerns about his long-term recovery.
The Redskins issued a statement Thursday describing the injury as “serious” and asking that “everyone please honor the Smith family’s request for privacy at this time,” while providing no specifics on Smith’s situation.
There was a feeling of concern in the team’s locker room Thursday as teammates wished the best for Smith. A large group of players took a team bus to visit Smith in the hospital Tuesday. There were too many of them to fit in Smith’s hospital room, so the quarterback was brought to see his teammates in a larger area.
“We all just assured him, ‘Hey, we’re praying for you, man,’ and wished him the best for him,” running back Adrian Peterson said. “That’s all we can do. ‘Hey, you’re not in the building, but we’re still thinking about you.’”
Smith is battling an infection following surgery to repair the broken tibia and fibula in his right leg, according to two people with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive health issue. One said the injury could “possibly” be career-threatening for Smith.
A day after Smith suffered his injury, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said the quarterback’s surgery went well and that he was facing a six- to eight-month recovery timeline. But ESPN later reported that Smith’s bone broke through his skin and he faced a “lengthy rehab.”
The Redskins have not confirmed that Smith’s bone broke through his skin and have released few details about the nature of the injury and Smith’s recovery.
Risk of infection is a common concern for injuries in which a leg bone breaks through the skin.
Alexis Colvin, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said that infection is the biggest concern for those types of leg fractures because of the exposure to debris. The soft tissue must be cleaned out during surgery, Colvin said, and it sometimes requires going back in for another cleaning with an additional surgery.
Gruden declined to give any details during his news conference Thursday.
“I was asked by Alex’s wife, his dad, his mom, not to really go into any detail on this process,” Gruden said. “That’s a respect of privacy, so that’s what I’m going to do. I think when the time is right, Alex will address the media and we’ll go from there.”
Tight end Vernon Davis, who also played with Smith on the San Francisco 49ers, said that he wasn’t worried about Smith’s long-term outlook, adding, “Alex is the most resilient man I’ve ever met.”
Running back Kapri Bibbs said he plans to visit Smith, alone, when he gets the opportunity.
“Heck, yeah, I’m worried, but I know they’re keeping a real close eye on him and stuff like that,” Bibbs said. “He knows that he’s in our prayers.”
Added left tackle Trent Williams: “Whatever it is, I just pray for him. Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on with that situation. I’d like him and his wife to get the privacy that they need at this time, so all I can do is send my prayers over.”
The news of complications has increased questions about whether the 34-year-old Smith will ever return to the field. He is not at financial risk, given that $71 million of the $94 million contract he signed with Washington last offseason is fully guaranteed. The team will not receive salary cap relief if Smith is unable to play.
“It goes to show you, it’s the game we play,” cornerback Josh Norman said. “Can be here one day and gone the next. Can be here one day, and you have a big injury, and you’ve got to be set back for a period of time. It’s just what it is. But he’s set [financially] no matter what, and that’s what you want.
“I know him. That willingness to fight. That willingness to grind it out. That warrior type of mentality. … He has that in him. He’s a leader. He’s a fighter. It sucks it happened to him, but he’s safe. He’s connected; he’s well established. He’ll be fine.”
Les Carpenter and Mark Maske contributed to this report.
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