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AJ-C: Bring in a legend


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Pro Football 2003: NFL: Bring in a legend

Emmitt Smith's true impact on Arizona won't be measured in yards


The numbers are there for the world to see, the NFL-record 17,162 rushing yards, 164 career touchdowns, four rushing titles, three Super Bowl championship rings, league and Super Bowl MVP honors.

Yet in their quest for validation, the Arizona Cardinals are looking at what they believe is inside Emmitt Smith as much as what's obvious on the outside.

Coach Dave McGinnis hopes for more than a boost for a weak running game. He wants a 14-year veteran to jump-start the franchise karma after Smith's messy release from Dallas.

"Emmitt would be sitting there at his locker, and guys were afraid to approach him. It was almost like there was a force field around him," McGinnis told the Dallas Morning News.

"There'd be guys whispering, 'That's Emmitt Smith.' They watched him and watched him, and gradually you'd see them migrate over in little groups. They realized he was just another ballplayer getting ready for the season. Now, Emmitt's like a magnet to these guys."

Whether Smith can still work magic at 34 remains to be seen.

The party line says he was cut in Dallas because his salary cap charge would have been absurdly high, and restructuring his contract would have handicapped the Cowboys down the road. The suspicion is that Dallas owner Jerry Jones wanted Bill Parcells to come in without the distraction of what to do about a Cowboys icon in decline; that Jones simply made way for one superstar by shunting another to the side.

Hence, Smith made some cranky remarks about the Cowboys, comments he later said were misunderstood. He says he just wants to keep playing.

"What I really wanted to do was go home to Florida," the former Gators star told the Arizona Republic. "I wanted to go to Tampa Bay [where coach Jon Gruden wanted him, but general manager Rich McKay did not]. The Bucs couldn't work it out. The Cards didn't insult me and tell me they'd only pay me the minimum."

Smith might repay the perceived insult when Arizona plays at Texas Stadium on Oct. 5. But the rest of the offense, with journeyman Jeff Blake at quarterback and the top three receivers having left as free agents, isn't likely to distract defenses from Smith.

Smith has added the title of staff sage.

"This team wants me to bring a level of confidence that they may have lacked, a level of stability they may have lacked, a level of intensity they have already seen --- when I played against them," he said.


Smith played 13 seasons in Dallas before signing with Arizona this season. He needs 838 yards to become the first player to rush for 18,000 yards.

Team......G.. GS.. Att....Yds..Avg..Lg.. TD


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