Smith has been reluctant to speak about the compound fracture he suffered Nov. 18, 2018, when his right foot caught on the FedEx Field grass as the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson tackled him. The interview was the first in which he detailed the weeks he spent in the hospital after surgery to repair the fractures in his tibia and fibula. What he revealed was even more startling than originally believed.
He said the initial surgery to repair the breaks was successful, with several plates inserted into his leg to align the bones, and he was almost ready to leave the hospital a few days after the injury when sepsis set in. Sepsis is a condition caused when the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight an infection and sometimes sets off a chain reaction that can cause organs throughout the body to fail. Doctors had worried about infection because his tibia had penetrated the skin when he was tackled.
Smith said he was heavily medicated as doctors operated several times to “get the infection under control.”
“I wasn’t really present for any of that,” Smith said. “You wake up, and you have your wife and family and doctors tell you how close you were [to dying], having gone septic. I didn’t know what that meant, didn’t know the mortality rate. I didn’t know how many people die.”
Not long after Smith woke up, doctors presented him with a choice: “amputation or limb salvage at that point.”
He said he wanted to save his leg, which doctors eventually were able to do, but his recovery was long. He spent months in a wheelchair and then on crutches before he finally could walk on his own last fall. In recent months he has started throwing at the Redskins’ practice facility in the hope of coming back next season, though he still walks with a limp.
Ron Rivera, the Redskins’ new coach, has constantly mentioned Smith when he talks about the team’s quarterbacks and has suggested that if Smith is able to play, he will compete with Dwayne Haskins for the starting job.
Smith, 35, is two years into the four-year, $94 million extension he signed after being traded to the Redskins in 2018. He led Washington to a 6-3 start that season, throwing for 2,180 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions. He is 94-66-1 in his 13 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Redskins.
He is the second Redskins star in as many years to say he could have died of a medical condition. Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said that a rare cancer found in a cyst on his head was close to going through his skull and into his brain before doctors caught it last winter.
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