Every season several award winners at the NFL Honors are known in advance, but not many awards are as clear as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award has been in 2020. Let’s look at Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith’s incredible return from an injury that makes him a more than worthy winner of this award.
Alex Smith wins 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
For many, Alex Smith had clinched the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award before he even stepped on the field — just returning to action in training camp and practice was an incredible feat.
However, Smith continued to defy expectations, as he returned to the field in Washington’s game against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. That return to the field all but clinched Smith as the winner of this award over Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Smith went on to start six games in 2020
If his return to the field was not enough to clinch the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Alex Smith continued to impress on his return from injury. He returned to the field again in Week 9 against the New York Giants, going 24 of 32 for 325 yards and a touchdown.
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Week 10 saw Smith start his first game since his injury in 2018. In total, Smith started six games this season. He led his team to a 5-1 record in those games. In the season as a whole, Smith completed 66.7 percent of his pass attempts for 1,582 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Smith’s fairytale run to the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year did not culminate in a playoff start. He was unable to start Washington’s playoff game, as Taylor Heinicke took over the role in their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Alex Smith’s injury journey began in 2018
It’s been a rollercoaster for Alex Smith ever since the San Francisco 49ers took him with the number one overall selection. However, his career’s biggest test came in 2018 when Smith was injured against the Houston Texans. Smith suffered a spiral and compound fracture to the tibia and fibula in his right leg. Smith’s road to becoming the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year began with his initial surgery.
However, the road to recovery was by no means simple. Following that initial surgery, Smith developed an infection (necrosing fasciitis) that resulted in sepsis. The outcome was a further 17 surgeries, across nine months, in four separate hospital stays.
At one point, there was even discussion among doctors over whether an amputation might be the only option. However, following skin grafts and an operation to transfer muscle from his left quadricep, an amputation was avoided.
Smith still had a lot of hard work to do to return
A big part of the NFL Comeback Player of the Year’s story is Smith’s hard work following those operations. Smith wore an external fixation device for over a year, but he continued to work towards a return. In early 2020, he confirmed his intention to return to the field and was cleared by doctors in July. Smith’s activation from the PUP list came a month later.
The history of the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award
Smith will join a notable list of players who have won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck have all won this award since it was reinstated in 1998. Smith is the ninth QB to win the award in the past 13 years. He will also be the 14th to win it since its reinstatement.
Only two players have ever won the Comeback Player of the Year award twice
Since the award’s reinstatement in 1998, only Chad Pennington has won the award twice.
His first NFL Comeback Player of the Year award was in 2006 before winning it again two years later in 2008. However, the award was also briefly awarded by the Associated Press between 1963 and 1966. During that period, two awards were given each year. One for the NFL, and one for the AFL. During that time, RB Paul Lowe of the Chargers was also named Comeback Player of the Year twice (1963 and 1965).
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