- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Washington quarterback Alex Smith did not practice Wednesday, nursing a right calf strain. But coach Ron Rivera left open the possibility of the 36-year-old still playing in Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks — even if Smith is unable to practice all week.

Second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins received all the first time reps in Smith’s absence, though Rivera declined to name a starter. Rivera said Smith’s potential status could “go all the way” to gameday.

Rivera, though, has no qualms about having Smith suit up without taking a rep.

“A smart football player like that, you usually don’t worry about those guys,” Rivera said. “They’ll pick it up and be ready to go.”

Rivera went through a similar situation in Carolina, where the Panthers took a cautious approach with quarterback Cam Newton, who battled shoulder and foot injuries over the last two years. There have been other instances of a quarterback not practicing throughout the week and being fine for a game — Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, for example, just did it before facing Washington.

Speaking to reporters, Smith said he isn’t sure whether he’ll be able to play — calling that decision “way too premature.” He said he was treating the injury “day by day” and focusing on his rehab.

Elaborating on the injury, Smith said he had been dealing with minor calf pain throughout the week of practice before Washington traveled to face the San Francisco 49ers in Arizona, where the game was being held due to COVID-19 restrictions.

But when Smith started to play, he said the pain “quickly got worse” and affected his ability to throw. Smith went just 8 of 19 for 42 yards before he was pulled just before halftime.

“Felt like it was affecting me a ton, especially on those last several drives, really battling with that mentally, how much it was affecting me and limiting me out there,” Smith said.

Fortunately for Smith, he said the calf injury is unrelated to the broken leg that he suffered two years ago. While they both were the right leg, Smith said he was told “it was a freak thing” and that his leg still “looks great.” Smith has a surgically placed titanium rod in his right leg and wears a foot brace that specifically helps him play football.

“I think it’d be the same situation if I had a completely normal leg,” Smith said. “Obviously with everything that’s happened and the anatomy, certainly, all the doctors and the physicians go through all their checks. But everything looks great.”

So, does Smith even need to practice for him to be able to play Sunday?

Smith, who observed practice and said he took “mental reps,” compared the situation to having to play on “Thursday Night Football,” where practice beforehand is extremely limited.

“You’d love to be able to practice and go and get all the reps and stuff,” Smith said. “But I’ve played a lot of football. … This is just kind of the nature of it sometimes.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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