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The Alex Smith comeback attempt: “the first to do it”

I saw a short (1:50) video clip today and was mildly startled at what I heard.

Physical therapist Stephania Bell, a board certified orthopedic clinical specialist and certified strength and conditioning specialist, was being interviewed on ESPN about the Alex Smith injury and his attempted comeback.

Most of what she said isn’t news to Redskins fans, but I think this short clip is worth watching, partly for the video of Smith working on the physical recovery of his quarterback movement skills, but also for the comments from Ms. Bell near the end.

“He’s really far along,” she said, when asked where Smith is in his recovery, adding, “I mean, as you say, I’ve been following [his recovery], so I’ve seen, over a year, somebody who was just getting out of the hospital after facing a life-threatening situation, to a guy doing drop-backs and throwing accurate passes, and who really has his mind focused on a potential return.”

Let me be clear here — I’m still not sold on the idea that Alex Smith will ever take another competitive snap on an NFL field. If I were a betting man, I’d bet against him.

But Ms. Bell seems impressed, at least by how focused Alex Smith is on his goal.

The part that came at me out of left field was the next thing she said however:

“I think when we look at return to play projections, we always use [comparisons] in medicine — this is how we define the likelihood that somebody can come back.

But when you’re an athlete who’s trying to do something that’s never been done before — there’s never been a professional athlete who’s had this type of injury, with these consequences, and associated nuances of this injury try to come back to play. So, if you’re the first to do it, it’s hard to put a percentage on it.”

This floored me. With Marcus Lattimore, Teddy Bridgewater and so many others who have faced gruesome injury and long odds, I was shocked to hear Alex’s situation described as being unique.

there’s never been a professional athlete who’s had this type of injury...try to come back and play

What a sobering thought.

It probably says a lot about Alex Smith that he’s putting in the effort.

Oh, by the way, Ms. Bell doesn’t share my pessimism about Smith’s comeback efforts. Much like Jay Gruden and Ron Rivera, who each used similar phrasing to say that, if anyone can come back from this injury, Alex can, Stephania Bell expressed unconditional belief in the Redskins veteran quarterback:

“I tell you what, I would not put anything past this guy, after spending time with him. He’s amazing!”