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WT:Smoot Emerges as Team Leader


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The most important game of Fred Smoot's football career was by no means the best-played game of his career.

If anything, Smoot and his Washington Redskins teammates would just as soon erase last November's 17-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys from their collective memories for all eternity. It was that game at Texas Stadium that essentially sealed the Redskins' fate in 2003, a humiliating loss to a hated rival that marked the beginning of the end for ex-coach Steve Spurrier.

Make no mistake, though: Despite the eventual outcome, that was the day Smoot became a man, at least in a football sense. Playing in tremendous pain with a broken sternum, the third-year cornerback proved to himself and his teammates that he had finally arrived in the NFL.

"I think a lot of people didn't know that he was throwing up and in tears in the locker room, he was in so much pain," linebacker LaVar Arrington recalled yesterday as the Redskins wrapped up minicamp. "I like Fred, but when I saw that, I became a Smoot fan. He really showed me something that you don't see in the NFL too often anymore, that throwback mentality: 'Let's just go. I'll hurt later.'"

Smoot is sheepish talking about the gruesome locker room scene. But he doesn't hesitate to explain why he was so adamant to return to the huddle after missing just one game with the injury, even when it was clear to everyone else that the Redskins' season had already fallen apart.

"The main reason was I still saw the light," Smoot said. "And everybody else still believed, so I wasn't going to leave them hanging. If I'm your best option, if I make the defense that much better with my presence, then hey, I'm going to show up every time."

Smoot's presence on the field did little to right the Redskins' wayward season. It did, however, cement his status as one of the team's few true leaders and earn him accolades as the recipient of the Quarterback Club's player of the year award.

Six months later, Smoot's transformation is complete. No longer a trash-talking jokester, he's become an inspirational teammate, not to mention a pretty doggone good cornerback.

"When he sustained that injury, he started to find himself," Arrington said. "And I think he's really building on it. He's assumed a leadership role."

Smoot never set out to turn himself into a leader.

"That's something you can't really talk up. You have to earn it from your peers," he said. "It's just something you grow into. And once they start looking at you in that light, you have to really fulfill it."

The Redskins are asking Smoot to fulfill an increased role this year not just in the locker room, but on the field. With perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey now wearing a Denver Broncos uniform, Smoot is being counted upon to anchor Washington's secondary.

He can no longer take comfort in knowing he's responsible only for covering an opponent's No. 2 receiver. No, when the Redskins face the Philadelphia Eagles twice this season, Smoot will most likely be the one lined up opposite Terrell Owens.

Gregg Williams, Washington's new assistant head coach for defense, doesn't like to characterize his cornerbacks with No. 1 or 2 rankings. In Williams' scheme, Smoot and veteran Shawn Springs will share responsibilities.

Still, it didn't take long for Williams to realize Smoot was something special.

"He might be one of the top guys as far as attention in the meetings and the offseason program," he said. "He's doing a lot of things behind the scenes, above and beyond his other teammates. I see him here way early and staying way late. He was here on the draft weekend, just studying opponents and what we want done schematically."

Smoot has been gearing himself up for this season for some time now, ever since he came to the realization that Bailey wasn't going to sign a new contract with the Redskins.

One of Bailey's closest confidants, Smoot said he knew last December that Bailey wouldn't be back. (Two months later, the Bailey-for-Clinton Portis trade became official.)

"Champ and I basically talked every day through the whole process," Smoot said. "He told me if it got to the point where [a new deal] wasn't done by the last game of the season, he couldn't guarantee that he was going to be here. So I knew, and I kind of prepared myself for the worst."

Part of Smoot's preparation for the upcoming season included a considerable portion of time doing absolutely nothing. Because he played every game down the stretch last year, his sternum injury never fully healed until he took some time off over the winter.

These days, Smoot is feeling fine. He's able to make tackles, run and scream at the top of his lungs without worrying about the searing pain in his chest that used to be commonplace.

And if his football career continues to progress the way many envision it will, Smoot could have plenty of reason to stick out his chest with pride, knowing well he has earned the right to strut with the best of them.

"I'm surprised Fred didn't make the Pro Bowl this past season," Arrington said. "Maybe this would be a good year for him to make it. He's been playing well and working hard in the weight room. I think he's poised to go out and have a big year."

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I was also very impressed with Smoot playing through the obvious pain in that game.

Honestly I was not impressed with Smoot when he first came to Washington

I used to like to say he was like Deion Sanders minus the talent. Always talking trash and rarely backing it up.

Last year he showed me something though, he showed me heart. After that Dallas game Smoot convinced me that he belonged in Washington and that he had matured to the point of being a stud CB.

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What great story to read about Smoot.

First, we need a Leader on Defense.

Second, you gotta a love a guy who plays that way.

Third, the skins picked him becuase he fell into the second round. He was a classic good skills/production that did not have a great combine and was tagged with possible character problems.

But, he is here and doing great.


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Barfing in the locker room huh? That's a great behind the scenes, war story from last year. I really wonder what Spurrier's reaction to that was? It's nice to now have a coaching staff with the toughness and experience to encourage the kind of mentatlity Smoot showed last year.

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Smoot was the real deal from his senior year of college. We were so frigging lucky to get him in the second round. When I heard he wanted to be like Deion, I laughed because he'd have to sell his soul first, become in expert in 1970's pimp chic, and start blabbing phony religious conversion. Fred has too much class for that. I knew it from the first time I heard him talk. He's a GREAT guy.

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ditto. smoot is my favorite skin. and to think this time last year he was #1 on the trade block. i believe smoot+gibbs= darrell green. DG in the sense that he will be an overachieving redskin for life.

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Champ Bailey used to be my favorite Redskin player until he left. Now it is Smoot, as my username shows. He is a great talent and with a scheme that puts more pressure on our opposing QB's he IS going to have a better year then last year. And yes, thats a guarantee from a 16 year old who has never spoken to Fred Smoot in his life. :silly:

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A lot of people on this board have always praised Smoot for being a great player. Even before we had any idea that Champ would be gone, many felt that Smoot was the best CB on our team and far more deserving to go to the pro-bowl than Bailey. Hope he realizes just how much the fans think of him regardless of all the publicity that was shown toward Bailey in the media.

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I hope Snyder comes up off his bank account and gives Smoot a new deal THIS year instead of letting it drag out and turn into another problem like we had with Champ. Snyder seems willing to go out and pay for a player to come to Washington but is slow to pay the ones that have been here.

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Originally posted by NavyDave

Hopefully we will negotiate in good faith a contract to keep him here since he vocally says he loves being a skins and I haven't heard the got to get paid like Roland said.


When is his contract up? If/when he signs a long term contract, then and only then might I buy a #21 jersey.


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