Smith, who turns 37 next month, announced his decision in a 2-minute and 12-second video he posted on Instagram, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. He was fired by the Washington football team last month, but in 2020 he became the NFL’s top running back after an injury two years earlier that nearly cost him his right leg.
Even though I have a lot of opportunities left, after 16 years of doing my best, I’m excited to see what else is possible, Smith said in the video. But first I’m going for a walk with my wife, and my kids have no idea what to expect in the garden.
After Smith suffered a compound fracture in his leg in November 2018, many speculated that Smith’s career was over. He had to undergo 17 operations to stop the infection in his right leg, which was nearly amputated. He had to wear an external fixator on his foot for eight months and developed a flat foot.
His struggle to get back into the game was the subject of ESPN’s Project 11 documentary, which aired last spring, and Smith went through many trials and phases before being approved by doctors.
Two years ago, I was sitting in a wheelchair, looking at my paralyzed leg and wondering if I would ever be able to walk with my wife or play in the backyard with my children again, said Smith, who has three children. Putting the helmet back on is the thing I thought about the least. I kept asking myself: All this for a stupid game?
But according to Smith, once he had a football in his hands during practice at the Intrepid Center, he felt stronger and more motivated, and what seemed impossible began to become clear. Along the way, he was assisted by a medical team and used his time at the Intrepid center, which usually works with wounded soldiers.
Later on Monday, in an interview with SportsCenter, Smith was asked about the possibility of reuniting with Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, his coach at the University of Utah, and mentoring, likely with first-round draft pick Trevor Lawrence. Mr. Smith stated that he had visited Jacksonville and liked what was built there.
I wanted to do due diligence, even though I was leaning toward retirement, and I wanted to settle down for a while, Smith said. I wanted to see what was there, and I’m glad I did. But no… I was ready. I’m ready [to resign]. And I’m so excited to see what else is out there.
A year ago, around this time, the Washington organization had serious doubts about Smith’s ability to participate in training camp, let alone make the team. Many people in the franchise would say that if anyone can do it, it’s Alex. But they also haven’t made any concrete plans yet with his participation.
Smith returned to the 53-man roster, however, and after being inactive for the first four games, he finally played in Week 5 when starter Kyle Allen was injured.
The day did not go well for Smith, who threw for 37 yards but was sacked six times, including on his first series by Rams star Aaron Donald. He showed Smith and the others what his foot can do.
Smith started six games, in which Washington posted a 5-1 record and helped the organization win the NFC East title with a 7-9 record. But a bone bruise forced him to miss three of the last four games, including a playoff loss against the Buccaneers. Still, the fact that he played impressed others and he received 49 of the 50 possible votes to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award.
Washington fired Smith last month and signed veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smith initially expressed a desire to continue playing, but did not sign until a month after free agency began.
Smith was drafted by the 49ers in 2005 and spent eight seasons in San Francisco before going to the Chiefs in 2013. He has started 167 games in his career and his teams are 99-67-1 in those games.
After Colin Kaepernick was traded to San Francisco, the Niners traded Smith to the Chiefs, where he stayed for five seasons and led Kansas City to the playoffs four times.
Kansas City made a trade in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes and traded Smith to Washington after that season for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick. Smith started 16 games in Washington, which went 11-5; the last three years the team went 6-27.
Mahomes said Monday that Smith always seemed to come through despite the challenges he faced during his career, while Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Smith will be a great coach one day.
If he becomes a coach, I’ll be the first thing I can do with him, Reed said. I doubt he will, but if he decides to go that route, he is a guy you would love to have on your team.
Smith has scored 35,650 yards, 199 touchdowns and 109 interceptions in his career. His 46 interceptions since 2013 are the second most by a quarterback with at least 70 starts, behind Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
I was a skinny recruit with no name who shouldn’t have been allowed to play in college, let alone go to New York as a Heisman finalist or have his name called first on changeover night, Smith said in the video. And then I almost lost it all in a routine game …. But football didn’t let me give up, because, no, it’s not just a game. It’s not just about what happens between the white lines on Sunday afternoon. It’s about the challenges and the commitment they require, the intensity and scope of the effort that can be made, and the bonds that bind the 53 guys in the locker room. It’s about being fully involved in something bigger, and most importantly, it’s about you.
Smith then thanked the fans of the teams he represented: Ninth Nation, Kingdom of the Chiefs, or Burgundy and Gold.
To all the men I’ve had the privilege of working and playing with: Thank you, he said. Thank you for believing in me and helping me believe in myself and the impossible.
ESPN’s Adam Thacher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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