- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Bruce Smith isn't ready to retire from the Washington Redskins just yet.
The veteran defensive end, who had hinted in recent days that he planned to call it quits after 18 seasons in the NFL, said yesterday he was persuaded by Redskins owner Dan Snyder to reconsider his options. That leaves open the possibility of Smith returning next season to continue his pursuit of the league's all-time sack record.
Smith arrived at Redskin Park yesterday apparently having decided to announce his retirement. But after meeting at length with the owner, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and Gerry Snyder (the owner's father and partner), Smith was convinced to postpone his decision for now.
"My mind was made up," said Smith, who turns 40 in June. "Between the three of them Mr. Snyder, Dan Snyder and Marvin they kind of persuaded me to at least give it some thought."
While the possibility of Smith returning in 2003 grew yesterday, two other longtime Redskins (running back Stephen Davis and defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson) seemed resigned to the fact that they will not be back.
"Yeah, pretty much. [The speculation] has been everywhere, and I can't do anything about that," said Davis, Washington's No.3 all-time rusher who expects to be cut for salary cap purposes. "The only thing I can do right now is get my [injured] shoulder ready. Hopefully somebody will pick me up and I can do what I do."
Smith's announcement or actually, his lack of one was perhaps the most surprising development the day after the Redskins closed out their disappointing season with a 20-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Shortly after Sunday's game, he said he planned to reveal his intentions in the next day or two, and he gave every indication that his future would not include playing professional football.
But as he walked out of Redskin Park yesterday morning, on his way home to Virginia Beach for the offseason, Smith revealed that he changed his mind after meeting with the Snyders and Lewis.
Though he finished this season strong, recording six of his nine sacks over the last five weeks, Smith likely would not be an every-down player next year. What he must decide, then, is whether he wants to return as a pass-rushing specialist and resume his quest to break Reggie White's NFL record of 198 career sacks. Smith now has 195.
"A sack record is not at the top of the charts for me," he said. "My life is bigger than just having the record. There are some things I have to think over, some things I have to talk to my wife and my family about and some things I'm going to have to talk to Dan about. We're going to have to work those issues out."
Even though he would likely be a backup next season, Smith won't cost the Redskins much. He is due to earn a base salary of $755,000 (the league minimum for veterans with 10 or more seasons of experience), not a bad price if the Redskins still feel he can be a productive player.
"I think Bruce Smith proved without a shadow of a doubt that he's not over the hill," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "I think he made this team that much better with the intensity and the passion that he brought."
Smith, who didn't rule out the possibility of playing for another team next year, doesn't appear to be in a rush to make his decision. "I've got the whole offseason," he said.
Official announcements on Davis and Wilkinson probably won't come for some time, either, but there seems little question as to the end result for both players.
Reiterating his comments from recent weeks, Davis said yesterday he expects to be released because the Redskins won't be willing to take an $11.4million salary cap hit for a running back that doesn't fit into coach Steve Spurrier's offense.
"I've heard of guys getting released for not producing, not doing this or not doing that. But for a guy to get released because he doesn't fit, that's hard for me to accept," said Davis, who finished with 820 yards this season before dislocating his right shoulder and missing most of the last three games. "Hopefully the right opportunity comes up. I just want to make the most of it."
Davis postponed plans to undergo surgery to repair his shoulder, which also includes a partially torn labrum, until next Tuesday.
The Redskins will almost surely part ways with Wilkinson as well, choosing not to re-sign the unrestricted free agent once it becomes less of a salary cap concern on June 1. Wilkinson, a seven-year veteran who has been with Washington since 1998, does not expect to return.
"I doubt it, but again, it's unpredictable. Who knows what will happen at the end of the day," he said. "This business has a way of working itself out. In any circumstances that I find myself in, it'll work out."
All but one of the Redskins' 2003 opponents were certain heading into last night's game between San Francisco and St. Louis. Washington will play host to division rivals Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants, plus New Orleans, Tampa Bay, New England and the New York Jets next year. The Redskins will travel to Dallas, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, Carolina, Chicago, Buffalo and Miami. If the Rams lost last night, they would come to FedEx Field for the second straight year; if they won, the Redskins would play host to Seattle.
Long snapper Ethan Albright said he suffered a fractured transverse process, or broken bone in his back, in Sunday's win but kept on playing. Doctors told him he would be out 6-8 weeks if the season was still going.
The Redskins' offseason workouts begin March24. They will hold minicamps May2-4 and June6-8, a quarterback school in mid-May and will open training camp on July25.

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