Alex Smith received his congratulations for returning to football activities. Now it's about completing those activities.
Through the first few days, Smith's experience has been positive and seems to be on a consistent upward trend.
"Today was the best I felt out there for sure," Smith said Wednesday.
Smith said his acclimation process includes getting used to playing with the orthotic he's wearing, as well as clearing the mental hurdles associated with returning from such a significant injury and the resulting complications. Smith repeatedly referred to building up mental walls and "the inner voice in your head," and how he felt compelled to knock down those walls of self-imposed limitations in order to prove to himself that he can achieve his goal. It's a day-by-day process that comes with its challenges, which Smith is fully embracing.
"I'm not going to be ruled by fear," Smith said. "It's easy to talk about, but for me to be about it and go about it the right way."
The right way isn't clear. There isn't exactly a blueprint for Smith to follow, but he's figuring it out as he goes.
"I feel really good working through progressions," Smith said. "My foot quickness, as far as getting back, working through passing progressions, ball handling, a lot of things like that. I think obviously the next progression is certainly the unchoreographed things, the time the pocket breaks down, you get pushed back, there's a thousand and one different scenarios that come up. It's hard to drill all those things."
"When those things happen and it does break down, really, do you have what it takes there to save the play, find success, whatever that outcome is, escape the pocket, things like that?"
Smith won't be able to answer those questions until he does it first in a practice setting, and then in an actual game, when no one will be pulling up to avoid hitting him. That moment of truth, one about which Smith has thought plenty, arrives without warning.
Above all, Smith is not focused on his own legacy, but on reaching the ultimate goal: winning a Super Bowl. His path there remains unclear, but for now, he's happy just to be back on one -- with both feet ready to step forward.