- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

Although he needs 29 more yards than his season average of 64 to do so, Dallas halfback Emmitt Smith might well break the late Walter Payton's all-time rushing record Sunday against Seattle.

Smith gained a season-high 82 yards on 22 carries last week against an Arizona defense ranked ninth against the run. On Sunday, he faces the NFL's worst run defense, one that surrendered 183 yards to St. Louis' Marshall Faulk last week. It's also Smith's last game at Texas Stadium for four weeks. So unless the 3-4 Cowboys are badly trailing the 1-5 Seahawks in the second half, look for coach Dave Campo and offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet to have neophyte quarterback Chad Hutchinson keep handing to Smith to get him the 93 yards he needs to set the record in front of the Dallas fans.

"You know how excited you are when you get married?" Smith said. "Then you know how excited you are when you have your first child. I look at this as the same situation."

And while there's much speculation that Smith will retire after the season with the record in hand and the Cowboys likely out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year, those who try to tackle the 33-year-old runner think that might be a little premature.

"Three years ago, people were saying, 'Emmitt's slowing down and it's time for him to hang it up. Injuries are catching up with him. He's not the same Emmitt,'," Philadelphia Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins said. "But he's still freezing defenders in their tracks, making people miss left and right, still cutting back against the grain. I'm looking at all that and thinking, here is the same guy people used to say, 'He needs to hang it up.'"

Not, at least, until the rushing record is his.

The ring's the thing Cris Carter says he ended his five-month retirement and signed with Miami on Monday in hopes of finally winning a Super Bowl. Of course, injuries to Dolphins wideouts Chris Chambers and Oronde Gadsden were critical to the Dolphins' thinking, especially after Buffalo's previously porous defense held Miami to 10 points and shut down the passing game in a 23-10 upset Sunday. Carter said Dolphins legend Dan Marino, his co-host on HBO's "Inside the NFL,'' helped talk him into the comeback.

Carter, who will turn 37 next month, also might have had his place in the record books in mind. While Oakland's Jerry Rice remains in another stratosphere in all three major receiving categories, Carter is a clear second in catches (1,093 to 967 for third-place Tim Brown of the Raiders) and touchdown grabs (129 to 100 for Hall of Famer Steve Largent). But Brown (13,615) is getting uncomfortably close to Carter (14,004) in receiving yards.

The pen is mightier San Francisco receiver Terrell Owens is getting as much, if not more attention, for carrying a pen in his sock and autographing a football after scoring against Seattle on Oct. 14., than he did for stomping on the star in the middle of Texas Stadium two years ago or for his feud with 49ers coach Steve Mariucci last season.

"I am a target because of who I am and what I have done in the past," Owens said. "It seems like everything I do is taken to another level. People have the misconception about me that I am angry all the time or that I am a bad guy. When you see me celebrate, I don't dance with a scowl or frown. I am happy. I am happy because I am doing what I expect to do for our team to be successful. Football is an emotional game and I like to have fun."

If anyone's happy about the continued publicity of Owens' latest stunt, it's the makers of Sharpie, the black marker pen he used to sign the football for his agent.

"We're happy to see when athletes continue to use Sharpie," said Mike Finn, public relations manager for Samford, maker of Sharpie. "There's a long history of Sharpie with sports figures and celebrities."

Finn made it clear that his company does not endorse Owens' action, nor does Owens endorse Sharpieyet. "I'm sure we'll do something," Finn said.

Jinx? My Elfin magic has turned into the black variety. The top team in my weekly rankings first New England, then Philadelphia, Oakland and Miami has lost four straight weeks. New kingpin San Diego is off this Sunday and faces the 2-4 Jets next week.

Just one more A touchdown is all that Tampa Bay Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks needs to tie the NFL season record for returns off turnovers. Hall of Fame safety Ken Houston returned five fumbles or interceptions for scores in 1971. Brooks has four this year in just seven games, three on interceptions and one on a fumble. Kansas City safety Jim Kearney had four such scores in 1972 as did Philadelphia cornerback Eric Allen in 1993.

And speaking of records, my apologies to the folks at the Elias Sports Bureau for not citing them as the source for my report last week that the trading of last-minute field goals of at least 50 yards by Denver's Jason Elam and Miami's Olindo Mare was a first.

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