Alex Smith announces retirement from NFL after 16 years

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Alex Smith announced his retirement from the NFL after a 16-year career that ended in a comeback from a devastating leg injury to lead Washington back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

The Washington Football Team released Smith in March after he earned the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2020 for returning to the field after an injury that nearly cost him his right leg. He confirmed in a video posted to Instagram he would retire ahead of the 2021 NFL season to spend more time with his family.

“Even though I’ve got plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I’ve got, I can’t wait to see what else is possible,” Smith said in the video. “But first, I’ll take a little time to enjoy a few of those walks with my wife, and my kids have no idea what’s coming for them in the backyard.”

Washington traded a third-round pick along with cornerback Kendall Fuller to the Kansas City Chiefs for Smith. As part of the trade, Smith signed a four-year, $94 million contract extension with $71 million guaranteed. He suffered a compound leg fracture in November 2018, only 10 months after the deal that required 17 surgeries to repair the bones and clean out a life-threatening sepsis infection that destroyed much of the surrounding tissue in his lower right leg.

“It’s not just what happens between those white lines on a Sunday afternoon,” he said in his retirement video. “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 fully committing yourself to something bigger.”

Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder and his wife, Tanya, released a joint statement to congratulate Smith on a tremendous career and the greatest comeback in professional sports history.

“We want to congratulate Alex Smith on a tremendous career,” Dan and Tanya Snyder said in a joint statement. “He accomplished the greatest comeback in professional sports history and was a huge part of our team’s success this past season. Since the day Alex arrived here in Washington, he has represented this organization with class and dignity both on and off the field.

“We witnessed every step of Alex’s comeback firsthand and he personifies perseverance, strength and the will to never give up. The support he received from his family, friends, teammates and club medical staff throughout his comeback journey was truly unmatched. We will always be touched by the strength, courage and support that Elizabeth and their family showed throughout Alex’s recovery and comeback. We wish the Smith family all the best in the next chapter of their lives.”

Smith was medically cleared by his surgeons in July and was named Washington’s starting quarterback a month later. He earned a 5-1 record and helped the franchise to an NFC East title, one game ahead of the New York Giants.

“He was the ultimate professional and one of the finest leaders I’ve ever had the privilege to coach,” Washington Coach Ron Rivera said in a statement Monday. “His resilience and work ethic will serve as an example for our team as we continue to build a winning program here in Washington. He is an inspiration to me personally and to the countless others who followed his journey these past few years.”

Smith was drafted No. 1 overall by San Francisco in 2005 and spent eight seasons with the 49ers before joining the Chiefs in 2013. He finished his career with 35,650 passing yards, 199 touchdowns and a passer rating of 86.9 as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Football Team.

“To all the men I had the privilege of standing with and playing alongside, thank you,” Smith said. “Thank you for believing in me and thank you for helping me believe in myself and in the impossible.”