MINNEAPOLIS ..... — MINNEAPOLIS -- Defensive end Bruce Smith fired the first shot of Super Bowl XXVI yesterday, and he aimed it at the city of Buffalo.
Smith, who was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 for the Bills, said yesterday that he wanted to explore the possibility of being traded because of racial hate mail he received while rehabilitating an injured knee this season.
"I'm not 100 percent," Smith said during picture day at the Metrodome for Super Bowl XXVI between the Bills and Washington Redskins.
"I've been out here struggling, but I've been doing whatever necessary to help this team. But so far as that's concerned, after this particular ballgame, there are going to be some options that I'm going to try to explore. We'll just take it from there, but the most important thing is that we win this ballgame."
The Bills moved quickly to head off trade speculation. General manager Bill Polian and coach Marv Levy said Smith would not be traded.
"I understand his frustration," Polian said, "but going to another team is not an option."
Said Levy: "He came in once and said, 'Just trade me.' I said, 'Bruce, we're not going to trade you,' and that was it."
Smith, the first pick in the 1985 draft, had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee July 22 and played in five regular-season games. He said he received 10 pieces of racial hate mail duing his rehabilitation. One was sent to his home, the others to the Bills' training facility.
Smith, who served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy in 1988, also has been the subject of drug rumors this season.
Despite disclaimers from the club, Smith said a trade was "a good possibility. Too many things have happened that you just can't forget. I mean, granted, I've made some mistakes in my life, but my mistakes have happened and it's been four years since then. So I definitely believe I've cleaned my act up to the utmost."
Smith has two years left on a contract he signed upon becoming a free agent after the 1988 season. The Denver Broncos made him a contract offer of $7.5 million over five years, but the Bills matched the offer to keep one of the league's premier pass rushers.
* In a bid to limit media access, Levy has told TV reporters they cannot interview the Bills at the team's hotel in St. Paul.