Ron Rivera was “scared to death” to play Alex Smith, who found coaches’ attitudes “patronizing”

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Alex Smith was recognized as the Comeback Player of the Year for recovering from a devastating leg injury and returning to quarterback Washington to the playoffs last season. But while the story was unfolding, he and his coaches did not see eye to eye.

Specifically, Smith says that he grew frustrated by the coaching staff continuing to treat him like he was too fragile to play even after the medical staff had cleared him to return.

Smith told SI.com he found Washington’s coaches “patronizing,” and that they acted like they knew more than Smith and the medical doctors who had told Smith he could play again.

“It pissed me off,” Smith said.

Washington head coach Ron Rivera acknowledges he was scared of what might happen if Smith returned to the field.

“I was scared to death about putting [Alex] back out there and that is something I struggled with every day,” Rivera said. “It’s unfortunate that he feels we patronized him because I can tell you that was not our intention. At the end of the day, I commend Alex because he proved everyone wrong and exceeded any reasonable expectations that anyone had set for him. He not only made it back onto the field but led us to the playoffs. It was a truly remarkable feat.”

It’s hard to blame Rivera for being overly cautious with a player coming back from one of the ugliest injuries in NFL history. It’s also hard to blame Smith for being frustrated at coaches wanting to overrule a medical decision. Ultimately, Smith proved he was capable of one of a great comeback. But Rivera was far from the only one who feared it would not end well.

22 responses to “Ron Rivera was “scared to death” to play Alex Smith, who found coaches’ attitudes “patronizing”

  1. I’m actually a little disappointed in Alex. In effect, he is criticizing Coaches/the organization for being overly concerned about player safety- not something the NFL is usually accused of.

    That said, at least he didn’t use my least favorite term in all of sports, that he felt “disrespected”.

  2. Probably because Riviera would’ve taken all the heat if anything happened to Smith. The average fan is not a doctor, but anyone with two eyes could tell that leg was not 100%, and the games he missed due to “cramping” tells you something wasn’t right.
    Good for Alex Smith for working so hard and getting on the field again to prove everyone wrong. But just retire in peace, stop trying to drag all these people down because the career didn’t end how he wanted it.

  3. Rivera sounds like he is hiding either behind the ineptitude of coaches playing the right player or the inability of the coaching staff to be honest to Smith– I am not Smith should have played, I’m saying be up front with the guy , don’t hide behind the fact he was trying to comeback from a devastating injury and you were worried about that —

  4. And why did he not play at the end of the season?? Another nasty injury when he got cleated in his leg having huge gashes…

  5. i think the fact that smith retired despite taking the team to the playoffs speaks for itself regarding the relevant issue, whether he is physically capable of playing a season of pro football. and while respecting his determination to get back on the horse that threw him, realistically he was only on the team at the beginning of the season because they had to pay him anyway. no one expected him to play, and the third string qb doesn’t get a lot of attention under normal circumstances.

  6. Fans felt exactly the same way! Also, remember, no one except for Bruce Allen wanted him in Washington even before the injury! The coaching staff never knew of the trade until it was over!

    And while he was a good manager of the ball great guy and all that, he isn’t the player a sane team trades for, gives away the best nickel CB in the league AND signs to a huge contract extension he didn’t need to because he was already under contract!

    Take that same average QB 17 surgeries later and no one wanted that! We certainly didn’t want to see him again THIS year! Great guy and all, but it’s football and even a healthily Alex Smith is someone you’d move on from!

  7. It’s the coach’s job to save the player from himself. Rivera should have been scared. Now I hold him in even higher esteem.

  8. I was scared for him also as a fan , I just saw a repeat of the RG3 fiasco happening … and the coach was right he was to fragile because he didn’t last to many games.

  9. Washington has a new coach and an opportunity to put a losing past behind them. I think the owner might be willing to loosen his grip on the franchise, and allow Rivera to operate the way he wants to. Alex Smith had a long NFL career, but only two career playoff wins. It’s a QB league.

  10. It angered Smith that his coaches cared enough about him not to want to see him get seriously hurt again?
    I have suddenly lost a lot of respect I had for Smith. He comes off like a whiny baby here.
    Ron Rivera is one of the best guys in the NFL and he is loved by his players because he really gives a damn about them.

  11. “I was scared to death about putting [Alex] back out there and that is something I struggled with every day,” Rivera said. “It’s unfortunate that he feels we patronized him because I can tell you that was not our intention. At the end of the day, I commend Alex because he proved everyone wrong and exceeded any reasonable expectations that anyone had set for him. He not only made it back onto the field but led us to the playoffs. It was a truly remarkable feat.”

    I’ve always held a favorable opinion of Ron Rivera but this takes it up a few notches. And I’ll always wonder what would have happened if Alex Smith had gotten to develop for 3 years behind a HOF QB and go through Mike McCarthy’s QB school. Say what you will about McCarthy as a Head Coach but his QB school is pretty much universally respected.

  12. After seeing pictures of Smith’s reconstructed leg, I don’t blame Rivera one bit for hesitating to play him. That leg looked fragile and scary. Rivera’s a tough guy, but he also, from what I’ve read about him during his years in Carolina, cares about his players. This is in so why supposed to be a slam against Alex Smith, who is one of the most professional, team-oriented, decent human beings in all the NFL. I’m just glad Smith decided to retire because seeing him break in half this year playing for another team is something I don’t want to see on highlight reels. He’s got plenty of money, a great wife, great kids, the heck with football. Enjoy the rest of life, man.

  13. “I have suddenly lost a lot of respect I had for Smith. He comes off like a whiny baby here.”
    Whiny baby? I don’t know how you reach that conclusion after reading that long article. Smith put in months and months of work in the face of a horrific injury, serious complications, and numerous setbacks, and then was frustrated that all the work and energy he expended to comeback was seemingly for naught.
    It’s understandable that the coaches were hesitant, but he was cleared by an array of doctors to play. It speaks well to Rivera that despite that he was deeply concerned about Smith’s health, but Smith wasn’t being reckless or contravening advice. And at some point the recognition that football is an inherently dangerous sport that entails risk every time you step on the field regardless of prior injury.
    So, I still respect the hell out of both Alex Smith and Ron Rivera.

  14. boozygoose says: That said, at least he didn’t use my least favorite term in all of sports, that he felt “disrespected”
    ———————————————————————————————–

    As Gomer Pyle would’ve said “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.”

  15. He had drop foot, literally required a metal spring/support under his foot that ran up the back of his calf and attached there. There was a real possibility of a nasty ankle fracture, their doctors were pretty concerned about him.

  16. People are confusing the coaches being terrified, with them being “concerned about his safety”. Rivera admits: They were SCARED. They were scared he would get hurt and scared they would take the heat for it.
    A coach’s only goal is self preservation. Those coaches wee thinking more about their own careers than Alex Smith’s.

  17. Not sure Smith was too smart in critiquing a coach that was actually concerned about his health — seems pretty self-centered to me.

  18. uhohlol says: Comeback player of the year shouldn’t have to retire.
    ———————————————————————————————–

    It was 100% his choice to retire. He said he almost signed with the Jaguars, visited with them. He also had the Texans, Eagles, Patriots and Colts contact him but all the teams had question and conditions due to his injury issues so he decided to retire on his own terms. Smith was comeback player of the year because of how he came back from his devestating injury but he didn’t win the award due to his play. He was horrible last year (6td/8int, 2 fumbles, sacked 22 times in 8 games). He wasn’t very good pre-injury either. In his 18 games with Washington he had 16td/13int, 1 rush td, 8 fumbles, sacked 44 times.

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