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Giants' Colt McCoy knows what Alex Smith went through with leg injury, and he's proud his friend made it back

Washington's Colt McCoy, left, and Alex Smith on

Washington's Colt McCoy, left, and Alex Smith on the sideline at training camp in Richmond, Va., on Aug. 12, 2018. Credit: AP/Parker Michels-Boyce

It was 2 a.m., the Giants had just lost a gut punch of a game to the Cowboys and flown through the night to return to New Jersey, and Colt McCoy walked in the door of his home to find his wife, Rachel, waiting at the door.

She had only one question for him.

Did you talk to Alex?

"I was like, ‘No, we were on the plane,’" said McCoy, the Giants’ backup quarterback. "And she starts crying right there."

There were undoubtedly a lot of tears shed last Sunday after Alex Smith, Washington’s quarterback, completed his comeback from a leg injury with life-threatening complications.

On Nov. 18, 2018, Smith was the quarterback for Washington against the Texans. He was sacked and broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg, sustaining both spiral and compound fractures that required 17 surgeries to repair, and later an infection that doctors at first feared could lead to amputation. It was worse. A bacterial infection sent his entire body into septic shock, and his life was at stake.

But on Sunday, Smith was back in uniform for the first time since the injury. And when starting quarterback Kyle Allen hurt his shoulder, Smith was on the field. The same field where, almost two years before, his career seemed derailed and his life was put in jeopardy.

"There were so many ups and downs and complications along the way with it," Smith said in an appearance on "Good Morning America" on Friday. "So to finally get the green light from all the doctors in agreement that my leg was it was good to go, it was very cool."

The McCoys? They thought so, too.

"I tell you, just to see him dressing out and walking back on the same field that it happened on two years ago, I got chills," McCoy said. "It’s pretty crazy."

For them, Smith’s journey wasn’t just about Smith. They had been along for the ride as well.

McCoy played the last six years in Washington, the last two with Smith as a teammate. The two developed a very close relationship and their families grew close, too. It was McCoy who replaced Smith in the game when he shattered his leg, but just two weeks later McCoy fractured his fibula in a game. That injury required three surgeries.

"We both went through it," McCoy told Newsday of the rehab that brought the two friends even closer together. "I went through nothing as bad as Alex but a very similar thing for most of last year. We kind of walked through this together. To see him out there, I’m so happy for him and for [his wife] Elizabeth and for his family. I obviously know all of the things that he went through and struggled with and it’s just an unbelievable story."

McCoy admitted there were times during the journey when he wasn’t sure if either he or Smith would ever play again. McCoy did return to the field in 2019 for Washington, but said he never felt completely comfortable. When the season ended, he thought about retiring.

"It never was right last year although I tried to play," McCoy said. "I went into the offseason not knowing if I wanted to go anymore because my leg, it just wasn’t cooperating and it just wasn’t right … But yeah, there were plenty of times [you doubt your ability to come back] when you’re dealing with something that just won’t get better. I’m sure Alex has been through the same things."

McCoy signed with the Giants in the offseason.

"It was just through a lot of hard work and focusing on that literally every day that I got to the point where I finally started having confidence and now I don’t think about it, which I am so grateful for," he said of his leg. "I couldn’t have played the way I tried to play last year. I watched myself play in the game I played last year and compared to how I am moving and playing right now it’s not even close. Almost embarrassing. I’m playing with a lot more confidence. I’m not thinking about my leg. I’m in a really good place, a really good place."

McCoy said he still hasn’t spoken to Smith since he returned to playing last week, although they did share a few texts. During the season, McCoy said, it’s hard to carve out time for long conversations.

"He already knows how proud I am of him," McCoy said. "There are thousands and thousands of people who know him who are proud of him, too."

On Sunday, though, the two quarterbacks who came back from injuries that nearly robbed them of their careers — and Smith's life — will meet. They will be the backup quarterbacks behind Daniel Jones and Allen when the Giants host Washington at MetLife Stadium.

There won’t be much time then to talk. McCoy said he will try to find Smith before the game and give him a hug, but then they’ll go back to the business of getting ready for the contest. Afterward, they may have more time to chat on the field.

"I don’t know if we’ll even talk about the leg," McCoy supposed. "We’ll probably talk about our kids, tell each other good luck."

Heck, they might even play in the game. Both know they are only an injury away from taking the field, just as they were an injury away from leaving it two years ago. Almost forever.

McCoy will have others to catch up with, too.

"I was on this team for the last six years," he said. "I know everybody there personnel-wise. There are obviously new coaches and things like that, but I have a lot of good relationships there. I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be fun."

As for when he will actually speak to Smith about their injuries and their journeys and their comebacks and their accomplishments, McCoy said there will be time for those conversations down the road. Probably some more tears, too.

One day, Rachel McCoy once again will ask her husband: Did you talk to Alex? And he’ll be able to say yes.

"This is something I think we’ll celebrate many, many years from now," Colt McCoy said. "We both kind of know what that looked like, and to walk through it with him, it’s been amazing."

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