Alex Smith stood on a distant practice field behind the Washington Redskins’ team facility early Monday afternoon, heaving footballs as if nothing had happened these past 11 months. He wore a light brace on his right leg that looked more like a long black sock and moved easily, though not quickly, across the grass.

When he threw, the ball sailed from his hand, flying 40 and 50 yards downfield in a perfect arcing spiral, and it raised a question about the quarterback whose career was supposed to have been over after he broke his leg Nov. 18 and underwent multiple surgeries to fix the injury and treat infections. Is Smith seriously trying to play again?

“He’s been throwing for some time now. I think it’s been a progression that he’s built up,” Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan said later at his news conference. “He hasn’t just come out there and started throwing 50-yard bombs.”

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On a day when the Redskins woke up 1-6, with the memories of Sunday’s dreary, 9-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the mud and the rain, and news that running back Adrian Peterson might have injured his ankle in the defeat, the sight of Smith flinging 50-yard passes had to cheer them up a little.

Smith has done only a few interviews since the injury and has revealed little about his future other than to say he hopes to play again. At the time he was hurt, several people with knowledge of the situation said the team was not expecting Smith to return, and Washington eventually selected Dwayne Haskins with the 15th pick in this spring’s draft.

Until recently, Smith has not looked like a player ready to attempt a comeback. For several months, he was seen with a scaffolding-like device called an external fixator on his leg before moving to crutches sometime in the summer. He came to training camp practices on the crutches but moved gingerly. About a month ago he finally started walking without crutches.

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“He’s working diligently on the road to rehab and trying to get himself back to 100 percent,” Callahan said. “I have never seen anything like the effort he’s pouring into his rehab. It’s so impressive. … He’s got the ultimate respect of all of us.

“As a competitor, wanting to get back on the field again and wanting to play again after what he’s gone through, the trauma that he’s gone through, it speaks volumes for his passion and for his will.”

The Redskins haven’t provided many details about Smith’s recovery, citing his wish for privacy. Although he attends team meetings and has advised Haskins and the team’s other quarterbacks, Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, he is rarely visible when reporters are present, which allows him to go unnoticed publicly.

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“I’ve never seen a player with that type of will — he wills himself to do things, and he’s a great example for players and for people in general to emulate and to follow,” Callahan said. “I’ve got more respect for Alex than you can even imagine.”

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The Redskins are on a short week ahead of Thursday night’s game at the Minnesota Vikings, and it’s unclear whether Peterson will be able to play against his former team. Callahan said Peterson is “being evaluated” for an injury after the running back hurt his ankle in the third quarter of Sunday’s game. Peterson fumbled on the play, losing the ball — he later said — when he feared his ankle was breaking during a tackle at the 49ers’ 29-yard line.

Peterson had an MRI exam on the ankle Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, but the results were not immediately known.

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The team didn’t practice Monday but had to release a hypothetical injury report because it is three days from its next game. The report noted Peterson would not have practiced with an ankle injury. Also listed as players who would not have practiced were cornerback Josh Norman (thigh and hand), wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (toe), safety Deshazor Everett (ankle), linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring), guard Wes Martin (chest), running back Chris Thompson (toe) and safety Montae Nicholson, who was taken off on a cart Sunday with an ankle injury.

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Tight end Vernon Davis (concussion), linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (elbow) and tackle Donald Penn (non-injury related) were listed as potentially limited.

The team signed wide receiver Cam Sims back to its practice squad after releasing him last week to promote running back Craig Reynolds.

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