Ron Rivera says he can envision Alex Smith becoming part of Washington's quarterback competition

play
Why Washington placed Alex Smith on the PUP list (0:55)

John Keim details what's next for QB Alex Smith after he was placed on the physically unable to perform list. (0:55)

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said he has been "pleasantly surprised" by quarterback Alex Smith's progress and can envision him becoming part of the competition at the position.

But Rivera also made it clear that he has been pleased with second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins' progress this offseason.

Smith, 36, is trying to recover from a broken fibula and tibia suffered in November 2018 that required 17 surgeries and nearly led to his right leg being amputated. Washington has not yet cleared him for football activity and placed him on the physically unable to perform list before camp. But Smith has been working on the side with trainers and performing the same drills as the other quarterbacks -- Haskins, Kyle Allen and Steven Montez.

"He's looked good, he really has," Rivera said of Smith. "It's been exciting to watch his progression. He's looked very fluid. It's a tribute to who he is, a tribute to his trainers and his doctors to get to where he is today."

Before reporting to Ashburn, Virginia, Smith was cleared by his own doctors, one of whom is Washington's head team physician, Robin West. But Rivera said Washington wanted to see how Smith handled himself on the field before clearing him. Smith worked on the field for four days last week while the other quarterbacks and rookies were on the field. Rivera called it an "important step" that Smith reported no issues with his leg the day after each session.

After watching Smith, Rivera said he "can envision" him becoming part of the quarterback competition -- with a caveat. There is still caution expressed internally about Smith and whether there's a difference between looking good and showing he can still be a quality starting quarterback.

"The big thing is if he can do the things we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the field," Rivera said. "He'll be part of the conversation most definitely. ... We'll see how he is this week.

"It's a matter of: Can he do the movements he needs to do? Can he protect himself when on the field? He's going to have to hand the ball off, drop back in the pocket and throw the ball. He's going to have to escape. We have to make sure he can do those things and protect himself as he plays."

Rivera said there's no cutoff date in mind for when he would want to make a decision about Smith. The veteran quarterback has played 13 years and has run similar concepts before, so Rivera estimates Smith knows about 75% of the new coaching staff's playbook.

Meanwhile, Rivera said Haskins isn't far behind in his knowledge of the playbook; Allen knows it from having played in this offense the past two years in Carolina. Haskins, the 15th pick in the 2019 draft, closed last season as the starter and, by all accounts, has had a strong offseason. He lost nearly 20 pounds from the time he was drafted, hoping to add quickness and the ability to hurt teams more with his legs.

"He's done a great job studying and preparing and getting himself ready," Rivera said of Haskins. "He's been great. He's been on the field doing things asked of him. He's done the extra stuff he and I talked about in the offseason. He's done the things I think put him right there where he needs to be at this junction. He's done the job that I think deserves recognition."