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

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.