- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2003

All-time sacks leader Bruce Smith bid farewell to the NFL last night as the Washington Redskins concluded their extremely disappointing season with an 31-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Smith, who broke Reggie White’s record on Dec.7 against the New York Giants, wound up with five sacks this season and an even 200 in his 19-year career. Smith, who played his first 15 seasons in Buffalo and went to 11 Pro Bowls, was honored at halftime. He was introduced by former Bills quarterback and Buffalo-area congressman Jack Kemp. The 40-year-old was presented with a life-size plaque designed in his 6-foot-4, 262-pound form.

“This is a very humbling experience,” said Smith, surrounded by a dozen or so family members. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Smith, who’s expected to retire in the offseason, thanked teammates Champ Bailey, Fred Smoot and LaVar Arrington but drew boos for thanking Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

“It has been a magnificent ride, a career filled with a lot of ups and a few downs,” Smith said after the game. “Nineteen years is a long time to do anything. I’m prepared [for retirement]. The golf course is where I’m going to be competitive from now on. The whole day was very emotional. I tried to slow things down today and savor the moment.”

This was the second straight year Washington’s season finale included a salute to a sure Hall of Famer. Cornerback Darrell Green retired last year after 20 years and seven Pro Bowls with the Redskins. Smith’s 279 games were the third-most by a defensive player following Green’s 295 and the 282 of former Minnesota end Jim Marshall, who served as a consultant to Snyder during training camp in 1999.

If I were a rich man

Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington concluded his fourth year with the Redskins, a day after signing a nine-year, $68 million contract extension that includes $15.5 million up front. Arrington’s highlight last night occurred late in the second quarter when he deflected Donovan McNabb’s pass back to the Eagles quarterback for a 7-yard loss.

“It lets me know that they believe in me and what I can do for this team,” said Arrington, who finished second on the team with 117 tackles and six sacks. “I definitely plan on being a lot more vocal and a lot more active with the players and will try to help turn this thing around to the fullest.”

Arrington’s new deal freed up the salary cap room necessary to accommodate four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey as Washington’s franchise player. Bailey, who turned down a nine-year, $55 million offer from the Redskins this fall, remains unsure of his future.

“It was great to see LaVar get that contract,” Bailey said. “I’ve had instances where I’ve thought I’ll be here next year and moments where I don’t think so. Who knows?”

Coles Hawaii-bound?

With six catches for 87 yards last night, Redskins receiver Laveranues Coles wound up with 82 catches and 1,204 yards. No Redskin has had more catches since Art Monk with 86 in 1989 or more receiving yards since Henry Ellard had 1,397 in 1994.

“Laveranues had a wonderful year,” Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said of his receiver, whom the Redskins signed in March as a restricted free agent from the New York Jets.

Coles could be joining Arrington and cornerback Champ Bailey in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu on Feb. 8. Coles, the first alternate, is in line to go now that San Francisco wideout Terrell Owens is out with a fractured collarbone. The question is whether the fractured foot on which Coles has been playing all season would keep him from his first Pro Bowl trip.

“If I’m invited I’ll go,” said Coles, who’s unsure if he’s going to need surgery on the foot. “I hope I showed the Redskins they made the right decision to sign me.”

Next year

Fourteen of each NFL team’s games are set years in advance, the other two depend on where a team finishes in the standings. If the New York Giants upset Carolina today, Washington will wind up fourth in the NFC East and travel to Arizona and play host to whichever team finishes last in the NFC South, New Orleans or Tampa Bay. If the Giants lose, the Redskins will finish third and travel to San Francisco and get the higher finisher of the Saints and the Buccaneers.

At 5-11, the Redskins are in a mix with 5-10 teams Houston and Jacksonville and 4-11 teams Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, the Giants and Oakland for a high pick in the 2004 college draft. Arizona and San Diego, both 3-12, will have the top two draft picks.

All those teams finish their seasons today.

Scratched

Starting tight end Zeron Flemister, Darrell Russell, who’s in the rotation at defensive tackle, and reserve linebacker Antonio Pierce were all declared inactive by the Redskins for showing up late to practice on Christmas. Backup safety David Terrell also was inactive because of an ailing knee as were halfbacks Trung Canidate (foot), Ladell Betts (forearm) and Sultan McCullough and offensive tackle Brandon Winey (knee).

Rookie Kevin Ware made his first start at tight end and Byron Chamberlain was activated for the second time in the past nine weeks. Matt Franz started at safety in place of Ifeanyi Ohalete, who went on injured reserve Tuesday with knee and ankle injuries. Rock Cartwright made his third straight start in Canidate’s place.

Fans walk

Thanks to a ruling by Prince George Circuit Court Judge Sheila Tillerson-Adams on Dec. 18, fans were allowed to walk to FedEx Field for the first time this season. The judge ruled the policy was illegal because it violated the county’s open meetings act.

McCants, Westbrook hurt

Redskins receiver Darnerien McCants was taken to the locker room with a cut lip in the third quarter after a hit knocked off his helmet. He returned in the fourth quarter. … Halfback Brian Westbrook, who led the Eagles in rushing and touchdowns and was the NFC’s No. 1 punt returner, tore a triceps in the first half. His status for the playoffs, which Philadelphia begins in two weeks, is uncertain. Westbrook starred at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville.


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