The reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year is bracing to bequeath the honor to a one-time division rival.
Free-agent quarterback Alex Smith, who captured the award with Washington last season after returning from a career-threatening leg injury, predicted Dallas Cowboys counterpart Dak Prescott — recovered from his own devastating malady — will enjoy a “huge, huge” 2021 campaign.
“Dak is, I think, one of the most unique athletes in the NFL – and I really think that from like a freakish perspective,” Smith recently told USA Today. “He is such a strong, powerful, such a good athlete. So I really expect him to come back and be rolling. Then you add that on to his fortitude and mental perspective? I think he’s going to have a huge, huge year.”
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Prescott, of course, has worked his way back from the gruesome right ankle compound fracture and dislocation sustained last October. He required two surgeries to save his meteoric career potential.
Through the rehabilitation process, Prescott found close parallels to Smith, who compound-fractured his right leg in 2019. The former Chiefs signal-caller needed 17 separate operations to prevent amputation of the leg, let alone preserve his ability to play football.
The similarities weren’t at all lost on Prescott, who in March, upon signing his record-setting $160 million contract extension, expressed gratitude to and appreciation for Smith.
“Even sitting there, holding my leg or whatever on the field, trying to put it back into place, or later on being in the hospital and waking up from surgery, that’s just what God’s thrown at me,” he told reporters, via Pro Football Talk. “If you’ve known my life, if you’ve known my story, whatever circumstance that is, I’m going to take it with a smile and be thankful that God has put me in this position to overcome it, to be an example to others. So never in a million years [did he think his career was finished].
“And I have to thank, honestly, Alex Smith. Because at that moment when you’re sitting there and you have an injury like that or you come out of surgery, to see somebody who’s already done it and did it actually in worse circumstances, that allowed my mind just to go to straight, ‘Hey, I can do this. I’m going to beat this. It’s just a matter of time. What are the doctors saying? But I’m going to beat this.’ So I have to thank Alex for somebody who’s overcome that and won Comeback Player of the Year, and congrats to him.”
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Dak Odds-On CPOY Favorite
There are several household names who should be vying to win Comeback Player of the Year — Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Bengals QB Joe Burrow among them — but the clear front-runner as of this writing is Prescott.
According to BettingPros.com, the soon-to-be 28-year-old leads the CPOY field with +175 odds, followed by Barkley (+600), Burrow (+600), Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (+600), and 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (+700).
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL