Alex Smith nearly lost his leg after a gruesome injury and complications from the 17 surgeries that followed.
Sunday, less than two years later, he cleared another huge hurdle in his NFL comeback.
Washington activated Smith off the physically unable to perform list, clearing the quarterback to practice in pads when that portion of camp begins Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Smith will now have a chance to compete for the starting job, as Washington coach Ron Rivera previously told reporters he would be included in the battle with Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen if he was activated from the PUP.
“He’s looked good, he really has,” Rivera said earlier this month. “It’s been exciting to watch his progression. He’s looked very fluid. It’s a tribute to who he is, a tribute to his trainers and his doctors to get to where he is today.”
The last time Smith played, on Nov. 18, 2018, he was sacked and broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg. He had three metal plates placed in his leg, but he later developed bacteria in his blood and the infection set off a string of other surgeries that put his leg at risk.
“Maybe cutting off your leg is the best thing?” Smith wondered, as documented in an ESPN E:60 episode on his rehab.
Instead, doctors took muscle tissue from other parts of his body to place in his leg and he responded even better than hoped for. Once he was finally released from the hospital, he still needed a metal brace around his leg and used a walker to get around, but eventually began his road back to the NFL.
Saturday, Smith’s family treated him to a celebration to mark the occasion, spraying him with champagne.
“Hard work pays off!” Smith’s wife, Elizabeth, wrote in an Instagram caption with the video. “Lots to celebrate in the Smith house tonight.”