- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2018

ASHBURN — Alex Smith is battling an infection stemming from multiple leg surgeries after the Redskins quarterback fractured his fibula and tibia last month, raising new questions about his playing future.

Smith, according to multiple reports, remains in the hospital and it is unclear how the infection will affect the 34-year-old’s timetable for recovery. NFL Network reported it was too soon speculate, while ESPN reported there’s concern Smith’s injury could be “career-ending. “

The Redskins issued a statement Thursday, asking people to honor Smith’s family request to respect their privacy. “Although this is a serious injury, Alex and his family remain strong,” the statement partially read.

“I was asked by Alex’s wife, his dad, his mom not to really go into any detail on this process,” coach Jay Gruden said. “That’s to respect their privacy and 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.”

Smith suffered his season-ending leg injury Nov. 18 against the Houston Texans when J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson sacked the quarterback, whose leg snapped in a gruesome fashion reminiscent to Joe Theismann’s broken leg 33 years earlier.

Smith required immediate surgery, but Gruden said the operation “went well.” Gruden estimated Smith would be out 6-8 months, based on feedback from the team’s doctors.

On Thanksgiving, FOX’s Jay Glazer reported Smith would not be ready for the start of the season and needed 8-10 months to return. When asked about the report, Gruden said he was still working off the original timetable, but added, “We’ll just have to wait and see, make sure that everything goes OK.”

Complicating matters, Smith reportedly had suffered a spiral fracture instead of a clean break.

“The spiral has more to do with where the energy is coming from for the break,” said Dr. Alexis Colvin, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. “If you have a stick and you crack it in half, that’s usually going to give you a clean break across. But if you twist it, that’s going to give you a spiral break.”

Running back Adrian Peterson said Thursday that “a lot” of members from the team visited Smith last week. He added he and his teammates told Smith that they were praying for him and wishing him the best.

“We all didn’t fit in the room, but we had the opportunity to meet him,” Peterson said. “He was able to get out of the room and come down and meet us and stuff. It was a good time.”

Smith’s injury also has ramifications related to the team’s salary cap. If Smith cannot pass a physical by the fifth day of the league’s next calendar year that starts in March — which he likely won’t — then the quarterback is entitled to $71 million guaranteed of his upcoming four-year, $94 million extension. That number had previously been $55 million.

That makes moving on from Smith near impossible. Salary cap analyst J.I. Halsell, who worked for the Redskins from 2007-08, said, if the team cuts Smith before June 1, then that would carry a $52.6 million hit in dead money on its salary cap.

If Washington elects to cut Smith after June 1, then the team would carry a dead hit of $20.4 million in 2019 and $32.4 million in 2020. Those numbers are based on a combination of his base salary for 2019 and 2020 and his accelerated signing bonus.

Even if Smith is forced to retire because of the injury, Halsell said Smith will still earn his money, though the team could opt to seek some cap relief by recovering some of Smith’s $27 million signing bonus.

But as of now, the Redskins have shown no signs of wanting to move on from Smith. In the meantime, they’ll try to win Sunday’s game with veteran Mark Sanchez under center.

“It’s tough,” cornerback Josh Norman said of Smith’s injury. “It’s really tough. Anything with that situation is tough. I think he is handling it the best way he can. … We’re all saying our prayers though.”

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