When re-examining the 2020 NFL season, it's easy to skip over the context of the Washington Football Team's postseason run.
Winning the NFC East at 7-9 isn't an accomplishment most would beam over. But when you consider what two key members of the organization were going through to even be with the team last season, it's a remarkable feat.
Coach Ron Rivera spent the bulk of the year battling cancer. Quarterback Alex Smith, who guided Washington to a 5-1 record in his starts, returned from a career and limb-threatening injury on his way to winning the Comeback Player of the Year award.
The battle both men went through wasn't lost on those within the locker room, like young star receiver Terry McLaurin.
"I think that what was so unique for our team last year is that (Smith) and coach Rivera were so unique in the adversities they were going through last year," McLaurin told SiriusXM NFL Radio over the weekend. "And it was a little similar, in that, obviously coach Rivera was dealing with cancer, but Alex Smith was dealing with a life-threatening injury. Just the way they approached practice, you would have never known anything was wrong, by the way. They never had a feel sorry for me moment. They never really had moments where they were going to use what they were going through as an excuse. They were always going to put their best foot forward."
McLaurin noted that the recently retired Smith's entry into the lineup, which spurred a four-game win streak that got Washington to the top of the division, brought confidence after the club floundered with struggling Dwayne Haskins under center.
"One thing with Alex, he was just cool, man," McLaurin said. "You come in the huddle, when you see (No.) 11 coming in, you feel like you have a chance. And the way he galvanized our team and put us in the best position to make a playoff run was really cool."
With Smith retired, the reins are handed to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Washington boasts one of the NFL's most well-rounded rosters. If the Footballers take the next step in 2021 with a deep playoff run, part of that success can be attributed to the foundation built watching Rivera and Smith compete through adversity.