- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

Emmitt Smith is having the worst season of his 12-year NFL career. So are his Dallas Cowboys. And to add to the misery, Smith and coach Dave Campo disagree on his workload.

"Emmitt has the legs left, but we have to make sure that we use him properly," Campo said of the 32-year-old halfback. "I don't think he's at the point of his career where he can go 30 carries a game."

Retorted the NFL's second all-time leading rusher: "I don't know why he feels like I'm not a 30-carry back. They haven't given it to me 30 times to find out if I can still carry it 30 times. I feel like I can carry the ball as many times as they need me to, given the opportunity."

The statistics actually support both sides of the argument.

Smith averaged 23 carries in the 2-8 Cowboys' only victories and just 14 in the six defeats in which he played (he missed two losses with a sprained knee).

However, Smith is averaging a career-low 3.7 yards while second-year back Troy Hambrick is tied for third in the NFL at 5.4. Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose Redskins play host to their NFC East rivals Sunday, called Hambrick "the heir apparent."

The question is how long until he ascends to the throne. Hambrick has had two 100-yard games this year to Smith's one. Hambrick has carried the ball 44 fewer times than Smith but has just 16 fewer yards.

Campo said having the 25-year-old Hambrick share the workload as no Cowboy has ever done with Smith the team's leading rusher by at least 600 yards since he arrived in 1990 will keep him healthy and help him in his quest for the 1,074 yards he needs to break the late Walter Payton's career rushing record.

Smith said he's happy that Hambrick has been forced to line up at fullback since former starter Robert Thomas was lost for the season in Week 5.

"When you've got a guy like Troy who can make plays, you've got to utilize both of us," Smith said. "Fortunately, Troy has to split time at fullback as well as tailback. I don't have a problem with sharing carries as long as the job's getting done."

The Cowboys are fourth in the league in rushing, admirable for a team that usually trails by halftime. But little else has gone right for Smith or his team this season.

"It has been a very frustrating year," said Smith, who managed just nine yards on nine carries in the Thanksgiving Day loss to Denver. "Nothing went right [against the Broncos] and when nothing goes right, how can you expect to go out there and do well?"

Even a split of their last six games would leave the Cowboys at 5-11, their worst mark since Smith's rookie season.

"There is frustration there, but I don't see it being anything Emmitt can't handle," Campo said. "We had a team meeting after practice on Monday and Emmitt was one of the guys that stood up and said, 'I'm having fun with this group, but we need to do something offensively to get a little bit closer to each other to take a run down the stretch.'"

Smith has expressed his frustrations at being part of the Cowboys' rebuilding effort light years from the 1992 to 1995 era when they won three Super Bowls in four years. But he said yesterday that he doesn't know why he wouldn't be a Cowboy in 2002. And Campo reiterated owner Jerry Jones' desire that Smith pass Payton in a Dallas uniform.

The Redskins would just as soon not have to face Smith, who has averaged 104 yards and a touchdown in his 21 games against them, twice a year.

"Emmitt's still Emmitt," said Redskins quarterback Tony Banks, a Cowboy from March through August. "If you think he's not going to be Emmitt, that's when he kills you."

Added linebacker LaVar Arrington: "I'm going to go out there and beat Emmitt down, but beat him down with respect. It's always fun to play against a legend. The key for us on defense is to make sure that Emmitt doesn't become a huge factor in the game."

Even if Campo allows him to be one.


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