Given the testimonies of a number of Washington Redskins players, past and present, it has to be asked whether Alex Smith is in the wrong hands.
A little over five months ago, the medical/training staff of the Washington Redskins were invited on a stage to receive an award for excellence.
It almost seems an Onion headline at this point, given what we know—or at least what we’ve heard/read in player testimony this NFL offseason—but the award for the NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year somehow went to Washington at this spring’s Ed Block Courage Award Foundation Gala.
If that sounds like giving a sportsmanship award to Antonio Brown or a longevity prize to Andrew Luck, it is.
Nearly three months ago, left tackle Trent Williams, arguably the best overall player on the Redskins, made headlines with a trade demand. While he is frustrated contractually, NFL reporter Jason La Canfora gave word that the primary reason for Williams’ frustration was centered on the team’s medical staff.
Details of the exact issue are fuzzy. Williams had a growth removed from his head this spring that was, at one point, believed to be malignant. Fortunately it turned out to be benign. Somewhere in the back and forth of receiving the news and having the procedure done, Williams became frustrated with the team’s staff.
He’s hardly the only one.
Former Redskins safety/linebacker Su’a Cravens came out in support of Williams with a claim of his own about the medical staff. Namely, he said the team accused him of making up his injury and denying him money while he recovered from a concussion.
Quarterback Colt McCoy broke his leg last December against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s had three surgeries since then and still isn’t ready to compete for the team. Head coach Jay Gruden even recently admitted, “We probably rushed him back a little bit too quick.”
Running back Derrius Guice tore his ACL over a year ago and is just now getting back into game shape. The reason? Two months of additional treatment to overcome an infection that set in after his initial surgery. Per Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post:
"There was a period of getting IVs three times a day, for three hours. His knee would swell up, giving him a burning sensation, and he came down with flulike symptoms when the infection was first detected and an orange, cloudy fluid needed to be drained from the joint."
Then there’s Alex Smith, the team’s former starting quarterback who is still in the midst of his own recovery from a nasty spiral leg fracture—the type of injury that has ended careers, including a certain former Redskins quarterback in Joe Theismann.
Shortly after breaking his leg and having surgery to repair the bone break, Smith remained in the hospital for multiple weeks due to “devastating complications” following surgery. The culprit was a post-operative infection which set in and required much more medical attention than expected. The surgery was on Nov. 20, and a story broke that he’d been released from the hospital on December 16.
Recently, Smith got an “external fixator” off of his broken leg which is a big step in his recovery. He’s also been around every quarterback meeting as a resource and voice of experience even as he awaits his chance to return to the field. The Redskins, for their part, clearly aren’t waiting around for Smith’s potential recovery after they drafted Dwayne Haskins in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Is Smith in good hands in Washington? Are all these setbacks simply a string of bad luck for the Redskins training staff? Who can be trusted at this point? There are reasons for Williams to want to raise some drama in the interest of being paid like one of the league’s best tackle. Cravens seems bitter about his entire stint in Washington.
Are the infections and setbacks suffered by McCoy, Guice and Smith all coincidences? Smith still has a long way to go before he’s going to get back onto the field—if at all. Is he in the right place to return or should he be just as concerned as some current/former teammates who came away from their own injury frustrated with the communication and treatment?
All of this is difficult to tell as of now, but rest assured the details aren’t done slipping out on this whole medical saga. Here’s hoping Smith doesn’t become another cautionary tale of an award-winning staff.