Washington's Alex Smith, Broncos' Jake Butt are the feel-good stories heading into 2020 season

'Tough days are going to come, but you can’t quit. You just have to keep showing up,' Jake Butt says

Alex Smith and Jake Butt represent at least two feel-good stories going into the 2020 NFL season.

The Washington Football Team put Alex Smith on their depth chart prior to Week 1 of the season, further solidifying him as part of the organization’s future as he recovers from a devastating injury.

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It was not that long ago where Smith’s career – and life – was in jeopardy after suffering a compound fracture of his right tibia and a fractured right fibula. After undergoing surgery, Smith also had to deal with a bad infection in his leg. His journey back to the football field was chronicled in an ESPN documentary.

A graphic image of Smith’s severely infected leg tells the story of how the 36-year-old quarterback needed 17 follow-up surgeries on his leg and at one point was told by doctors that they needed to consider amputation.

Washington quarterbacks Steven Montez (6), Alex Smith (11) and Kyle Allen (8) work during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington quarterbacks Steven Montez (6), Alex Smith (11) and Kyle Allen (8) work during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Now, Smith sits behind Dwayne Haskins on Washington’s depth chart. Washington coach Ron Rivera has even said he can “envision” Smith possibly playing this season.

“The big thing is if he can do the things that we need him to do, that he needs to do to help himself on the football field, he'll be part of the conversation most definitely,” Rivera said earlier in training camp.

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Meanwhile, Butt is listed as the third-string tight end on the Denver Broncos’ roster and it has been a long journey for him to get there.

The former Michigan standout made the roster after his sixth knee operation. He’s only played in three NFL games in three seasons in the league. He’s looking to put his own health issues behind him.

“If you’ve been through an ACL you know how hard one is. When you go through three, it means a lot to get that recognition from your comrades, your teachers, your coaches,” Butt said recently. “But for me, I’m healthy. It’s part of my story but I’m out there, I’m out there playing ball, I’m not looking back.”

Butt first tore his ACL during spring drills in his sophomore year at Michigan and tore the other ACL in his final collegiate game in the Orange Bowl. He played three games in 2018 before suffering a third ACL tear, this time at practice. Last year, his comeback attempt was thwarted by an operation to clean out a torn meniscus. He had hoped to return but Drew Lock was activated instead.

Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt takes part in drills during an NFL football practice in empty Empower Field at Mile High, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt takes part in drills during an NFL football practice in empty Empower Field at Mile High, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Butt admitted he’s experienced some dark times,  but added he couldn’t face his family if he quit.

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“I’m really happy I stuck with it because I do feel really, really good out there. I feel like I can still play in this league and contribute,” he said. “I can even get much better than what I’m playing right now. That’s a lesson I definitely learned through this and everybody can learn.

“Bad days are going to come and tough days are going to come, but you can’t quit. You just have to keep showing up.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.