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Bruce's last season...Lions like Big Daddy


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By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 29, 2003; Page D02

Defensive end Bruce Smith said yesterday that he intends to retire after the upcoming season, his fourth with the Washington Redskins and 19th in the NFL.

Smith, 40, enters the season with 195 career sacks, three shy of Reggie White's NFL record.

"I've been thinking that for quite some time," Smith said when asked following the Redskins' opening practice of training camp whether he expects this to be his final season.

"I'm just happy to be in the position that I'm in right now, to be able to play this game that I've loved to play for so long. Going into my 19th year -- I never would have thought and I never would have dreamed that I would play this game for more than 10 or 12 years."

Smith sat out yesterday's morning practice but participated in the afternoon practice. Linebacker LaVar Arrington said the Redskins players want to reward Smith with a far better final season than cornerback Darrell Green had. Green retired last year after a season in which the Redskins had a 7-9 record.

"I feel like I played with the best defensive end who ever played the game," Arrington said. "When he breaks the record, I hope everyone gets a shot of me hanging all over him because that will immortalize me. . . . We don't want to send out Bruce like we sent out Darrell. Nobody wants to send off one of the legends with a losing season. You only get so many chances to play with the greats."

Tight end John Owens broke his left hand. Club president Matt Millen shrugged off both injuries as minor and turned his focus on joining the Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson sweepstakes.

The Washington Redskins cut Wilkinson Tuesday morning when his agent refused to restructure his $3.4 million contract for this season. Injuries limited Wilkinson to only 16 tackles and no sacks last year. But Millen says the former Ohio State star, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1994 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, is most definitely worth pursuing.

Wilkinson's release had been anticipated around the league for several days.

"We're interested," Millen said. "He's darn good. He's very experienced. He can hold a point really well. You have to look at him."

Lions vice president Tom Lewand said the team would have no problem fitting Wilkinson under the salary cap.

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If the Lions get Wilkinson I'd make a major play for Rogers. The last Lions camp report said he's down 30 pounds and the Lions are happy with him so this may not be realistic. But, I'd almost be willing to give up a first-round pick for him. He had about as good a year as you'll ever see out of a defensive tackle in 2001. Last year he was not even supposed to have been very good, but he was productive.

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The most damning part of this article...and more damning to the conspiracy theorists out there who see this as a major Skins FO gaffe (you listening Flow?)...was this sentence.

Wilkinson's release had been anticipated around the league for several days.

Now why would the league be anticipating his release? Hmmmm?

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