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'He's Looked Good': Ron Rivera Likes What He Has Seen From Alex Smith

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Alex Smith works off to the side with a trainer, mirroring the techniques and movements of the other quarterbacks. He's not allowed to join them yet -- the Washington Football Team placed him on the Physically Unable To Perform List before training camp -- but he's doing everything he can to prepare himself for when that time comes.

Over the past 20 months, Smith has suffered a gruesome leg injury, endured life-threatening complications and persevered through a harrowing recovery -- all to reach his ultimate goal of returning to the field.

That dream has never been more within reach.

"He's looked good, he really has," head coach Ron Rivera told reporters Tuesday. "I'll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see how far along he is. It's been exciting to watch his progression."

Before the veterans arrived for the start of the acclimation period Tuesday, Washington's quarterbacks, rookies and players coming off injuries had four days of workouts last week. Smith competed those sessions without any setbacks, Rivera said, and looked "very fluid" while doing so.

"He comes down and he's just raring to go," Rivera said. "We'll see how he is this week and we'll go from there."

A lot of factors will determine when Smith can join fellow quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins Jr., Kyle Allen and Steven Montez on the field.

Smith must be able to protect himself, Rivera said, and smoothly execute football movements, such as handing the ball off, dropping back, making all the throws and escaping the pocket. Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said the drill work will be especially important to see how Smith pushes off his right leg and how quickly he can change direction.

"Some of those things will be like riding a bike and others won't be," Zampese said. "We will jump through all those hoops when the time comes. I am really excited about that."

Neither Zampese nor Rivera envision Smith struggling mentally, as the 36-year-old is entering his 16th NFL season. Plus, Smith is already familiar with Scott Turner's offense.

During Smith's second NFL season in 2005, Turner's dad, Norv Turner, was his offensive coordinator in San Francisco. Smith told Cleveland.com in 2013 that he loved working with Norv Turner and that it was a "very, very friendly QB system" with big-play potential. Smith played all 16 games that year and threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"He's a very smart QB, bright individual," Rivera said of Smith, "To be honest with you, I probably believe he already knows 75% of our playbook."

Although Smith is familiar with the current system, Zampese has been impressed with his urgency and willingness to learn. He wants to know exactly how Washington's offense will run and how he can have success within it; only then will he provide his experiences working within a similar scheme.

That curiosity, Zampese said, has set a "great example" for the other quarterbacks, who have played three NFL seasons combined. But it will also benefit Smith whenever he is cleared to play.

"I can envision it," Rivera said about Smith possibly joining the quarterback competition. "The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely."

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