Alex Smith, who made tremendous comeback after gruesome leg injury, retires after 16 years in NFL

Alex Smith gave football his all. After a 16-year tenure with three teams, he’s decided to call it a career and spend more time with his family.

Smith, who broke his leg on a routine play during a game against the Houston Texans back in 2018, made headlines last season when he took the field again with the Washington Football Team for the first time since that injury.

“Two years ago I was stuck in a wheelchair, staring down at my mangled leg wondering if I would ever be able to go on a walk with my wife again or play games with my kids in the yard,” Smith said in a video announcing his retirement on an Instagram page he created Monday. “Putting my helmet back on was the farthest thing from my mind. I just kept asking myself, ‘All this for a stupid game?’

“But then someone did something that changed my recovery completely,” Smith, 36, continued. “He put a football back in my hands. I don’t know what it was, but all of a sudden I felt stronger, more driven and what once seemed impossible began to come into focus. And the truth is, over the course of my life, that’s what this game has done for me.”

Smith was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2005 draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He spent seven seasons as the Niners’ starting QB and helped them to one playoff run in 2011, then was traded to Kansas City, where he played for the next five seasons.

“He’s a heck of a person... he had a heck of a career,” Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said. “Wherever he went, he made them better.”

Smith pushed Kansas City to four playoff runs in 2013 and from 2015-17.

He was traded following that last season to Washington in 2018 and in the third quarter of the team’s Week 11 game against the Texans, Smith fractured his right led and had to be carted off the field. The wound later became infected and nearly cost him his life.

“Our first priority is we’re going to save his life. And then we’re going to do our best to save his leg. And anything beyond that is a miracle,” Washington’s head team physician Dr. Robin West told Smith’s wife Elizabeth while he was still in the hospital.

Smith made that miraculous recovery, which included needing 17 surgeries. And in interviews after, he detailed how lucky he was to be alive after the injury.

Then on Oct. 11, 2020, he strapped on his helmet and jogged onto FedEx Field and took the ball. He completed nine of 17 passes for 37 yards and rushed for one yard. Smith went 5-3 over the eight games he played last season and helped propel Washington into the playoffs. But he was cut in the offseason.

“This isn’t just a game,” Smith continued in his video. “It’s not just what happens between those white lines on a Sunday afternoon. It’s about the challenges and the commitment they require. It’s about how hard and how far you can push yourself. It’s about the bond between those 53 guys in the locker room and everybody else in the organization.

“To all the men I had the privilege of standing with and playing alongside, thank you,” he added. “I wanna say thank you for believing in me and thank you for helping me believe in myself and in the impossible.”

Smith’s career includes a number of top accolades. Aside from being named to three Pro Bowls, he was also the 2020 NFL AP Comeback Player of the Year and NFL PFWA Comeback Player of the Year. He’s the only QB since the 1970 merger to win 40 or more games in the AFC and NFC, according to Elias Sports Bureau, and is only one of three quarterbacks to win 30 or more games for multiple teams — the other two are Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer.