There are two sides to this Steve Smith surgery. The first is how it affects Smith’s football career, with an emphasis on football. How long will it take him to be back? Probably anywhere from 6-9 months, which puts the start of the 2011 season in doubt for him. Will he be the same player he was before the injury? We’ll see.
The other angle is how it affects Smith’s football career, with an emphasis on career. As in the way he makes a living.
Smith, a Pro Bowler, is still playing under his rookie contract. He’s due to be a free agent at the end of this season. Under a normal labor climate he likely would have already signed a long-term extension with the Giants, coming off his Pro Bowl year and proving to be an invaluable asset to Eli Manning. But this is not a normal climate, so the Giants have not signed him.
Now he’ll have to hit the market with a questionable knee and will undoubtedly get far less than he would have. Even if the Giants decide to be generous and optimistic and re-sign Smith to a long-term deal, it will undoubtedly be for far less than he would have received had he finished the year healthy. Or at least able to walk.
It’s just one of the many tough decisions the Giants face heading into this offseason of uncertainty. Besides Smith, they must also make a decision on Mathias Kiwanuka, their former first-round pick who is also on IR with an alarming injury – a bulging disc in his neck. That doesn’t even take into account some of the other free agents-to-be who are big-time contributors to the Giants this season: Kevin Boss, Barry Cofield, Ahmad Bradshaw.
It sounds like it’s going to be a grueling offseason for Smith. And one filled with difficult decisions for the Giants as well.