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Alex Smith Placed On The PUP List, Takes Next Step Towards Recovery

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Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith, who has been recovering from a gruesome leg injury for the past 20 months, was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, the team announced Monday.

Smith reported to the Inova Sports Performance Center on Thursday for COVID-19 testing and then took a physical with Washington Football Team doctors on Monday afternoon.

Smith's placement on the PUP list is viewed as a positive step toward his ultimate goal of returning to the field. It allows the team to continue monitoring his condition as Smith continues his recovery.

This was the only opportunity for Smith to be placed on the PUP list. Per NFL rules, a player cannot be placed on the PUP list once they have taken the field for a practice or game.

"Everyone was in agreement that my bone was in a really good place," Smith told ESPN. "I had healed a lot. They said that given the combination of the rod and where I was with the healing process, I had zero limitations and could even resume some football activities."

Smith has endured a harrowing journey since suffering a broken tibia and fibula against the Houston Texans in Week 11 of the 2018 season. He nearly lost his leg from an infection just days after his initial surgery and underwent a total of 17 surgeries during his recovery.

The ensuing weeks and months after the life-saving ordeal were the subject of the E:60 documentary "Project 11. Smith's wife, Elizabeth Smith, said he maintained a positive attitude throughout the process, but there were times when he admitted it was a challenge.

"I'm completely helpless," Smith said in the documentary. "I can't get up by myself, I can't do anything. Am I ever going to be normal, functional? [I was] really having a strong doubt in my head that that was going to be a reality."

Still, Smith never gave up hope and continued to improve. In November, he announced that he had been running and even going through some football motions, including dropbacks and throwing live routes to receivers. After last season, Smith said he "without a doubt" plans to play in 2020.

"I still have dreams of getting back to where I was and getting back out there," Smith told reporters during the team's locker room cleanout. "This has been, obviously, a crazy ride with a lot of unforeseen turns, but without a doubt that's still my goal."

Smith knows his recovery process is unlike anything in league history. The closest comparison is when Washington quarterback Joe Theismann suffered the same injury on Nov. 18, 1985, resulting in Theismann's eventual retirement.

"No, there isn't a blueprint," Smith said at the conclusion of the 2019 season. "We're rolling with everybody that's an expert on this in the country and trying to figure that out and map it out."

Smith's next goal is to "prove to myself and certainly to everybody else that I can go practice." He has routinely accomplished what many have thought was impossible, and the 36-year-old is determined to do so again.

"To hear them say that, from a life standpoint, they wouldn't restrict me from doing anything -- I could go skiing or snowboarding tomorrow if I wanted -- then on top of that, to get the green light that I could practice, get contact, that I had healed up, that much was pretty wild to hear," Smith told ESPN. "I didn't know if I would ever hear those words."

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