What a Sunday. In some order:
- Derrick Henry steamrolls the skidding Ravens (again)
- Carson Wentz is lost at sea (and on Lake Erie)
- Poor Joe Burrow
- The Steelers are 10-0 and the ’72 Fins are getting nervous
- Taysom Hill slam-dunks the haters
- Tuamania, paused
- The Cowboys have a pulse
- Colts stymie Rodgers
- And by the way, how fun is it, watching Patrick Mahomes cut out a rival’s heart?
But first . . .
We need Thanksgiving in our country this year, for so many reasons. We need Alex Smith, and I don’t mean to make the middle game of the Thanksgiving tripleheader on Thursday—Washington, with Smith at quarterback, at Dallas—watchable. We need Smith and his family and his story to remind us that in the midst of whatever craziness we all have in our lives, we have much to be thankful. We might not be with family this year, fearful of the spread of COVID-19; we might have someone we love ill with the virus; we might have lost jobs or businesses or ways of life because of the pandemic; we might be distraught over the election.
Two years ago this week, in a game four days before Thanksgiving, Alex Smith suffered a grotesque broken leg that required immediate surgery. Three days later, hours before Smith was to be released, flesh-eating bacteria slowly began consuming his right leg. Within hours, doctors rushed him into a Thanksgiving-morning surgery to save his leg, and his life. “Thanksgiving, two years ago,” Smith told me. “When life forever changed.”
On Sunday, after 17 surgeries on the right leg, Alex Smith started at quarterback for Washington, his first start on that same field since J.J. Watt snapped two of his leg bones on the fateful 2018 sack. Smith and Washington beat Cincinnati, 20-9.
“As you approach this Thanksgiving,” I asked Smith the other day, “what are you thankful for?”
“Yeah.” Pause. Sigh. “Um. So tough to put into words.
“I think certainly first and foremost, grateful for my health right now and my family’s health. You realize looking back what a privileged life I led and had never really faced a challenge like that. To have a partner by my side in my wife . . . I was out of it when things got really scary. Certainly amputation was right on the doorstep, even probably hours away from it at one point.
“[I’m] thankful for her . . . And then the two years afterward, when I was in different states of helplessness, her strength, obviously I’m incredibly thankful and grateful for.
“My kids are so special to me, being able to play with them. I’m so thankful that I can do that every day.
“And it’s still so surreal to me that I get to lace up cleats and put a helmet on. Yeah, I gotta wear this brace to do it, but how amazing it is that every day I get to go do this, how awesome that it’s progressed this far.
“I’m just lucky.”
This column is not going to be a recitation of Smith’s incredible story; that’s been told. I’ll pick up Smith’s story, the football part, later in this column, and you can hear my full conversation with him Wednesday when “The Peter King Podcast,” Thanksgiving edition, drops. So much in an eventful football weekend to get to first. Still,…