A normal person looking down into Alex Smith's right leg, cut off on Sunday as a dry tree branch on FedEx's field that broke its tibia and fibula and left the leg and ankle that slid could damage or even disable a few minutes view so grotesquely unnatural.
But to a professional athlete, especially an NFL player who sees and suffers things that we hardly imagine as part of his job, the answer is often very different. These are not broken bones that register, nor the incredible pain that comes, nor the operation that comes, nor the months of rehabilitation that may or may not be returned to a reasonable facsimile of the player that you had immediately before the injury. Instead, physical injury causes deep emotional empathy.
"Alex had an excellent career, obviously, no doubt. But if you have such an injury, it's more heartfelt than physical," said Washington's Redskins coach Jay Gruden, who, after his dignified, generally respected fourth quarter, lost the veteran for a season in defeat 23-21 against Houston. "Just break the heart because it loves, loves to run this team, loves to be with boys, and now the season is over and it has a long way to go back. It's hard to observe that this happens to every athlete."
Smith's career is logical to get up, not just to continue next year. The rest of us measure our skills and careers, our dreams and ambitions in decades. NFL players are measured in these valuable years. Because of the catastrophic damage that causes many of us to turn away, they become inward. Their response is similar to someone who dies or is in a deadly danger, because their athletic career, at the heart of many, is in great danger.
"You make your prayers [for Smith] and prepare for the next game, "said Center Chase Roullier.
Football is different. In almost every game you can be badly injured. Those who have played all sports, football is simply different; the act is so fast and violent, you simply can not control what will happen to your body in the next moment, from any direction. You have to ignore your body to play at all. Vince Lombardi called the mental state to play the game properly "unscrupulously abandon." In other words, play as if you were using someone else's body.
Strange, like this, the dark side was blinking. The corner corner Kareem Jackson first hit you, hit it back, and then perhaps the most violent and fearful player in the whole NFL, JJ Vat, mammoth at the speed of the sprinter, lungs into you immediately, later – your body against the head, driving and twisting, because they all fall into random rotation. When it's over, they all turn around and choose the most from the lawn – except one.
"We're all out of hand for Alex," said Watt, who came to the middle of the field with Houston's entire defense to join Redskins when Smith sat on a trolley, kicked in his inflatable immobilizer, struck his head, pulled his back, hit his thighs or throw the word up. "You know what the dangers are, but you never want anyone to hurt, especially for the year." He really feels horrible. "That's sucking, that's the worst part of the game."
Among those who were in the middle, Texans defender Deshaun Watson was. "You never know when this game will happen," said Watson. "That's brotherhood. We fight there, but at the end of the day we all support … I just wanted to respect him."
Roullier did not look at his fourth leg. "I saw him move up and then straight back," said Roullier. "When we get to this in [game] film, we'll soon be past him – we see that it hurts. It's awful to see. Through it. "
Millions of fans saw similar games that can be observed, of which they are barely noticeable, two of them to other Redskins – Joe Theismann 33 years ago and Robert Griffin III in the playoff six years ago. Theismann never played after injury, which interrupted the same two bones as Smith. Griffin ripped his knee so poorly that her leg collapsed beneath him. Since then, he has not been the same player.
As expected and as it is, Redskins all announced the almost inevitable return of Smith, though they can not have any notion, nor should they use Smith's history to recover from career injuries in order to be announcers. It is associated with the athlete's approach to injuries – measured in the time, effort and pain required for his rehabilitation. Never heal, like Theismann? It's not in the menu, even for a financially-protected player like Smith, who has wisely negotiated the renewal of the Redskins contract as a condition of his store from the previous season in Kansas City, which provides him $ 71 million if he never plays the other. His salary and ceiling would be kept if he never returns.
"There is compassion in my heart," said the tight end of Vernon Davis, who is associated with Smith, returning to his San Francisco playing days. "I have been playing with him so long, he is like a brother. If you see him, go and suffer, like:" Why not me? "Maybe I should suffer and let him continue to do his job, helped the team win. "
Most of us say "my foot for it" sounds incomprehensible. Do not give in. The higher the risk, the bonds are tougher.
"I know how much work he has given," Davis said. "From San Francisco I'm going to Kansas City, he's the most resilient man I ever met."
The injury of football in Washington from this injury is likely to fall along the line from "big" to "huge". Smith should have been at least Redskins' starter for many years, and a man who would forget the departure Kirk cousins for Minnesota. Now, Smith's future, especially since mobility and throwing on the way is essential to him, is under the cloud.
Washington has a solid backup at Colt McCoy, 32, who knows Gruden's attack on the outside and has a 27 to 23-point touch-to-career ratio. But a "good backup" is a relative term. McCoy is a type of pistol shooter, capable of big games and hot games, but eventually he believes that these moments will overcome great mistakes and limitations of talent. McCoy did not start playing in six of the last seven seasons. His career record as a beginner is 7-18.
And they all love him. "I am a great company who believes in the talent of Colt McCoy … This is an opportunity for his life. I know that I would love him in different circumstances," Gruden said.
It is possible that in the short term McCoy can be a substitute substitute for Smith because the beginner was so plentiful this season, mostly because Redskins have regular players and three injured beginners.
"Colt is the strongest competitor I've ever seen," said Roullier. "Even when he was running a reconnaissance squad out there, he's like Super Bowl every day for him."
Washington, the team and the city will try to gather around McCoy because it earns this opportunity; the sports have real stories from Cinder-fella and Redskins, which is still a respectable 6-4, can create a bout if they can easily find the way to remain at 9 -7 record with the help of handy games coming, such as those against Giants and Jaguars.
These thoughts are for the future. This is the day that will be remembered for the third quarter of the Redskins and Texans venues that met one of the most respected surplus NFL players who lasted the league's qualifying league last season. They were encircled by the bound silence of dangerous people, complementing their ability to deal with dangerous things, but at that moment everyone felt "gutted" or "cute wing" for one member of the fraternity who could not get out of the ground .
Although he could not stand, Alex Smith stood for everything.
For more information by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.