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Woody:Velvet wrapping is appropriate for regal Smith


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Velvet wrapping is appropriate for regal Smith



Monday, December 8, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The moment came, Bruce Smith seized it and made history.

But the moment was really a package of moments that Smith has wrapped and boxed over the course of a distinguished career.

Smith had the 199th sack of his career yesterday, and that puts him in first place on the NFL's all-time sack list, one ahead of Reggie White. Smith's historic moment came as a result of his experience against the inexperience of Ian Allen, a young lineman for the New York Giants. The moment came because Smith has been able to stay healthy enough to play in 19 years in the violent world of the NFL. The moment came because Smith has been able to hold on, to fight the frustration long enough to get one more good rush at a quarterback.

When it was over and after Smith had showered, he donned a full-length, burgundy, velvet robe that had the word "All" on one side with the word "Time" on the other. His name was embroidered on the left side of the chest and a Redskins logo was on the back. The robe, Smith said, was a gift from his tailor, a gift his tailor had wrapped and told Smith to open, "after that special moment happened."

A group of Redskins defensive linemen and linebackers, seeing Smith in the robe, sensing Smith's regal bearing, recognizing the impact of his moment and thinking that the robe reminded them of former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, began a chant. "Ali, bomaye, Ali, bomaye, Ali, bomaye, Ali, bomaye, Ali, bomaye," (Ali, kill him"), they chanted, just as the fans of Ali had chanted before he stepped into the ring against George Foreman in the "rumble in the jungle" in Zaire in 1974.

When the chanting ended, laughter echoed around Smith. No one's smile was wider or lasted longer than Smith's. He was beaming when he stepped into his post-game press conference, by then was attired in a dark brown suit, a stripped shirt and a tie.

"I don't know what it feels like right now," Smith said. "Words can't explain it. I really can't speak to it. First and foremost, and I've been saying this from day one, good things happen to individuals when the team wins, and that was an example of that today."

Smith's sack came with 8:22 left in the game. The Redskins held a 20-7 lead, and the Giants had the ball on the Washington 21 yard line.

Jesse Palmer, the Giants backup quarterback and a third-year player, was in the game. Giants starting quarterback Kerry Collins had left the game with an ankle injury, the result of Smith rolling up the back of Collins' leg on a pass rush in the third quarter. Palmer took the snap, and Smith made his move on Allen. Smith had a clear path to Palmer, lunged at the quarterback's legs and brought him down.

"I was rushing outside pretty much all day and he [Allen] overset, and that's a cardinal sin," Smith said. "I made an inside move and slapped his hands away and beat him inside, and the quarterback was sitting right there. I just tried to lunge at him. When he went down, I thought he threw the ball. When he went back, I saw the ball in his hands and I knew it was time."

The sack came just in time for Smith. He's 40 and no longer moves as he did 10 years ago or even two years ago. His quest was on the verge of becoming a bad comedy act, a parody of the way a defensive lineman is supposed to play.

Smith has spent the past several weeks trying to push his way into the backfield to no avail, then rushing madly about as he desperately tried to get a sack or get there in time to share a sack with a teammate.

His frustration was beginning to show. Twice this season, he has complained of his lack of playing time, admitting he was being selfish. Smith might be a bit more sanguine now.

New York was the perfect team for Smith to face at this point of the season and his career. The Giants offensive line has been decimated by injuries this year. Allen, a second-year player, is in his first year as a starter and was making his first start at left tackle yesterday.

Now, Smith has the record. And, of course, he has the robe.

Contact Paul Woody at (804) 649-6444 or pwoody@timesdispatch.com

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Smith sets sacks record in defeat of Giants

Posted: Sunday December 7, 2003 7:17PM; Updated: Sunday December 7, 2003 10:13PM

Teammates congratulate Bruce Smith on becoming the NFL's sack king.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Bruce Smith gave some meaning to another disappointing season with the Washington Redskins by claiming the title of NFL sack king.

Smith trapped Jesse Palmer for a record-setting 199th sack and Tim Hasselbeck threw two touchdown passes as the Redskins beat the New York Giants 20-7 in a meaningless game that ended with only a couple of thousand people and few snowmen in the stands.

"I don't know what to feel like," Smith said after the Redskins (5-8) snapped a three-game losing streak and eliminated the Giants (4-9) from the playoff race.

"I have been playing this game a long time," said the 40-year-old who wore a burgundy robe with the inscription "All Time" on the front. "I've had a lot of surgeries. A lot of very important people were instrumental in prolonging my career."

Reggie White held the old mark of 198.

Hasselbeck, who threw touchdown passes of 6 yards to Darnerien McCants and 7 yards to Rod Gardner, was in grammar school when Smith was drafted first overall by Buffalo in 1985.

"I grew up watching him," Hasselbeck said. "Being around him for a little while, it's amazing what he's accomplished. To be on the field, I won't have to say I saw it in my living room."

NFL single-season sacks record holder Michael Strahan was happy for Smith despite the disappointment of the Giants' fifth straight loss. The two friends hugged after the game.

"Before the season that was his goal," Strahan said. "That's a testament to how long he has played and how consistent he has been to do that. That's a number I think he'll be the only one to get."

The Giants not only lost their fifth straight at home, they also lost quarterback Kerry Collins in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle, courtesy of a hit by Smith.

"It wasn't my intention to hurt Kerry," Smith said. "It was my intention to knock the heck out of him."

Some of the Giants were a little miffed at Smith because the hit came on a play officials blew dead for delay of game.

Smith created the most lasting memory in the game for last place in the NFC East when he tackled Palmer for a 7-yard loss with 8:33 to play. He put an inside power move on tackle Ian Allen, grabbed Palmer around the left ankle and pulled him down.

Smith stood up, raised an arm in the air and was mobbed by teammates, walking off the field and waving to the crowd, which booed.

"I heard everyone say `Bruuuucce!"' Palmer said. "I figured that was it, I was part of the record. I should have least gotten a `Thanks."'

John Hall added field goals of 28 and 41 yards for Washington.

Dorsey Levens scored on a 5-yard run for the Giants, who were booed by the hardy few who stayed to the final gun in what might be coach Jim Fassel's next-to-last home game.

Former Giants Jessie Armstead had two of the Redskins six sacks and a fumble recovery against his former teammates.

By the time Smith got the record, the Redskins were in control.

Hasselbeck, who was 13-of-19 for 154 yards, gave them a 10-7 lead with his TD pass to McCants early in the second quarter. He upped the margin to 10 by leading them on an 80-yard scoring drive into a 25 mph to open the second half.

The game was mistake-marred, as expected.

Tiki Barber, whose fumbles have hurt the Giants all season, lost another on the second play from scrimmage, setting up Hall's 28-yard field goal.

The Giants squandered a chance on their next possession when Matt Bryant missed a 26-yard field goal into the wind, but Levens gave them the lead on their next series with his run. It capped a 36-yard drive set up by a 16-yard punt by Bryan Barker.

The Giants special teams didn't protect the lead, allowing Patrick Johnson to break two tackles for a 50-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. Hasselbeck wobbled a 6-yard TD pass to McCants to cap the 34-yard drive.

Notes: ...Barber gained 99 yards rushing, giving him 1,092 for the season, his second straight 1,000-yard campaign. ... Giants second-year OT Jeff Hatch made his NFL debut, starting with Luke Petitgout out with back spasms. ... Giants WRs Ike Hilliard (knee) and Tim Carter (hit to the head) left the game in the second half. ... Redskins LB LaVar Arrington also had two sacks. Washington had the ball for 37 minutes, 8 seconds. ... Barker averaged 21.8 yards on four punts. ...The Giants' losing streak is their longest since losing seven in 1994.


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