(Reuters) - The Washington Redskins season took a precarious turn on Sunday when starting quarterback Alex Smith suffered a gruesome broken leg, an injury that reverberated around the National Football League.
Smith’s season-ending broken right tibia and fibula in a 23-21 loss to the Houston Texans was a painful image that left the Redskins with much to digest.
“When we get to that (play in the game film), we’ll speed past it — watching it hurts yourself,” Redskins offensive lineman Chase Roullier told the Washington Post.
“Horrible to see. Speed past that.”
Washington coach Jay Gruden said Smith’s misfortune, which happened when he was sacked by J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson in the third quarter, left his team with heavy hearts.
“When you have an injury like that, it’s more heartbreaking than it is physical. Just breaks your heart. It’s just hard to watch that happen to any athlete.”
Now the Redskins must start the challenging process of building without Smith, the signal-caller they traded for in the off-season and signed to a four-year extension.
Backup QB Colt McCoy does not immediately evoke excitement, particularly as Washington (6-4) clings to a one-game lead atop the NFC East Division.
The 32-year-old McCoy is just 7-18 as a career starter and could be leading an offense that already lacks punch.
The Redskins are reeling from injuries, and are without All-Pro offensive lineman Trent Williams, starting wide receiver Jamison Crowder and running back Chris Thompson.
Washington could pursue another quarterback replacement, but after their latest setback the team had little choice but to rally around McCoy.
“I’m a big firm believer in Colt McCoy’s talent,” Gruden said. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime for him. I know he would like it in different circumstances.”
The future circumstances for the 34-year-old Smith are now also dicey.
Same day 33 years ago, Washington Hall of Fame QB Joe Theismann suffered a ghastly leg fracture that ended his career.
A flood of players took to social media to send Smith well wishes.
“Prayers for my guy man! You will bounce back!” Kansas City’s quarterback Patrick Mahomes tweeted.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty