- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

Washington Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith may be the only person who can keep chatterbox Kenard Lang quiet. Even the jocular defensive tackle knows there's no second-guessing the future Hall of Famer.

"He's like my dad," Lang said. "I'm not going to talk back to him. If he says something, I'll do it. I just listen. [Coaches] won't yell at him, but they'll yell at me."

It's tough sometimes being an elder around teammates more than a decade younger, but at least Smith is respected by his disciples. Lang may joke that the 38-year-old has a locker of "ginko pills, canes and a wheelchair," but a standout 2000 season has Smith emerging as one of the defensive leaders entering his second year with Washington.

It seems like a victory lap after a remarkable 16-year career in Buffalo. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year helped lead the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances after an Outland Trophy season at Virginia Tech made him the first selection overall in 1985. Smith ranks second all-time in sacks with 181, 17 behind Reggie White, while his 13 seasons of 10 or more sacks is an NFL mark.

White's mark is one reason Smith continues to play. After all, 17 more sacks doesn't seem insurmountable over the two years he expects to remain in the NFL. A Super Bowl trophy also would help offset the stain of those four Bills losses.

"Either I'm stupid or half crazy," Smith said jokingly of still playing. "No, I have a love for the game that's deep down inside of me. I think it all started with the success in Buffalo. Those long stretches of going to the Super Bowl. You develop a love for this game. There's not a greater feeling in this world. I want to win a championship and a few records out there. They're important to me."

But so is passing on some of his secrets to younger teammates. Smith is often seen schooling both offensive and defensive linemen during practices.

"I just like the opportunity of working with the younger guys and sharing the experiences I've had and giving them some of the knowledge," he said. "It's a treat to see them come out and execute on the field."

Offensive tackle Chris Samuels, considered one of the NFL's brighter young left tackles after being selected third overall last year, admits Smith has been tough to contain during practices. His first step and long arms let Smith slide past sleeping opponents.

"Bruce says 'Stop holding,' so I've been trying to keep my hands off him because it would only hurt us in the game [with a holding penalty]," Samuels said.

Coach Marty Schottenheimer has noticed Smith using his savvy more than strength during training camp. Smith tailed off after midseason last year, and the Redskins don't want to wear him down too much in the preseason. He may even play fewer snaps during the regular season to provide a stronger finish.

"Bruce relies on his quickness and guile and competitiveness," Schottenheimer said.

Smith's 10 sacks were overshadowed by end Marco Coleman's 12, which earned the latter a trip to the Pro Bowl. However, Coleman should have taken Smith with him to Hawaii because Smith regularly flushed passers to him. Smith's 39 quarterback pressures were more than twice as many as any teammate. The Redskins used their best pair of ends in a decade to contain passers as Washington became the No. 1 defense in the NFC after ranking 29th in the NFL the previous year.

"I've never been in a situation where we turned around so quickly," Smith said. "To come back and make that big turnaround to No. 1 in the NFC is quite an accomplishment."

The sweat rolls off Smith as he walks slowly off the field twice each day. Maybe he wonders whether it's still worthwhile to endure such abuse. Then again, Smith dominated his turn in the "Oklahoma Drill" and even worked as the ball carrier during defensive linemen drills before a younger teammate was ordered to do the grunt work.

That sack record. That Super Bowl trophy. Smith knows it's a fair tradeoff for a rigorous training camp.

"This is one of the hardest camps I've been involved in in 15 years," Smith said. "I've never shied away from work. I'm out here every day. I just hope all this hard work pays off."

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