- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was a long time coming for Bruce Smith.

After 19 years and an agonizing last couple of months, the Washington Redskins defensive end finally claimed the NFL’s all-time sack record.

Smith came oh-so-close to that elusive, record-breaking sack three times yesterday, but each time the New York Giants’ quarterbacks just eluded his grasp. Then, with 8:33 remaining, Smith beat offensive tackle Ian Allen and tackled backup quarterback Jesse Palmer for a 7-yard loss.

The sack gave Smith 199 for his career, allowing him to surpass the retired Reggie White.

“I was rushing outside pretty much all day, and [Allen] overset me,” said Smith, 40. “That was a cardinal sin because I have a very good inside move. I slapped his hands, beat him inside and the quarterback was sitting right there. …

“Words really can’t explain [how I felt]. It’s a special day. I’m happy that it has taken place. I’ve been playing this game a long time. I know that I’m not in second place any longer.”

Teammates surrounded Smith after the sack, and linebacker LaVar Arrington gave him a bear hug and lifted him into the air. Smith took off his helmet and waved to the angry crowd, which booed. When the game ended, some of the Redskins dumped cold water on Smith in imitation of the traditional Gatorade salute that coaches receive after big victories.

Smith’s postgame television interviews were interrupted by a hug from Giants end Michael Strahan, who holds the record for sacks in a season.

Once in the locker room, Smith was greeted by teammates with rousing cheers of “Bomaye, Ali” — Swahili for “Kill him, Ali” — a chant that greeted Muhammad Ali in Zaire during his memorable 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” fight with George Foreman.

Smith then opened a package from his tailor that contained a burgundy terrycloth robe that had “Alltime” and “Mr. Smith” inscribed on the front and a Redskins logo on the back.

“I’m even more excited for Bruce than he is for himself,” Redskins linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. “He deserves it. It couldn’t happen to a better guy. It’s a great day for Bruce, his family, the Redskins and the NFL.”

Facing an inexperienced Giants offensive line that included converted right tackle Allen going against Smith, the Redskins knew it could be a big day for their pass rush.

That feeling grew when Smith knocked veteran quarterback Kerry Collins out of the game in the third quarter and Palmer took over. Five of Washington’s six sacks came during Palmer’s four series.

“The players knew that this would be a special moment if we were able to get them in a passing situation,” Smith said. “They have a couple of [players] banged up, and we felt we could exploit that.”

Smith, who had just three sacks in the Redskins’ first 12 games, was frustrated earlier because of the three near-misses. Arrington just beat him to Collins on the third play of the game. On Palmer’s first snap, Smith ran past him and linerbacker Jessie Armstead got the sack, a scenario that was repeated on the next series.

“I had missed [Palmer] on two other occasions and I was starting to get frustrated, but my teammates said, ‘Keep coming, keep coming. It will happen,’” Smith said.

Quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, who recorded his first victory yesterday in his second start, was thrilled to share the spotlight with Smith.

“I grew up watching Bruce,” the 25-year-old Hasselbeck said. “It’s amazing what he has accomplished. That’s a play they’re going to be showing over and over again, and I won’t have to say I saw it in my living room.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide