Such a deal: Lachey has advice after the game

January 23, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

MINNEAPOLIS -- If Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith wants a little advice on how to force a trade, he's going to meet the man Sunday who can give it to him.

Smith, who dominated Super Bowl XXVI headlines this week by saying he'd like to leave Buffalo because of the racial hate mail he's received, will go against left tackle Jim Lachey of the Washington Redskins.

Lachey is one of the few Pro Bowl players who has forced a team to trade him. Since the only true free agency in the NFL is Plan B, which affects only unprotected players, it's difficult for stars to change teams.

During training camp in 1988, Lachey told the San Diego Chargers he would retire if they didn't trade him. He wanted to play in the East, closer to his home in Columbus, Ohio.

Although Lachey's move was an apparent bluff, the Chargers traded the former Ohio State standout to the Los Angeles Raiders during camp. That wasn't exactly a move east, but Al Davis, managing general partner of the Raiders, convinced Lachey that a move to Los Angeles was in his best interests.

"I got schmoozed by Al Davis," Lachey said. "He's a hard man to say 'no' to on the telephone. He could definitely talk a dog off a meat wagon."

The trade helped Lachey get to the East because Davis was desperate to get quarterback Jay Schroeder from the Redskins.

Former Washington general manager Bobby Beathard insisted on getting Lachey for Schroeder. Davis made the deal after the first regular-season game.

That was the roundabout path that led Lachey to his matchup against Smith in this Super Bowl.

When Lachey was asked whether he would give Smith a little advice -- the Bills have said leaving Buffalo is not one of his options -- Lachey said with a smile, "I'll talk to him after the game."

Lachey said he didn't think Smith's unhappy state of mind would distract him during the game.

"I'm sure that by the time the game starts, he'll be focused and ready to play a big game," he said.

Lachey, who will be playing in his first Super Bowl, said he doesn't mind the pressure of being in a matchup that will get a lot of attention.

"I look forward to that type of thing," he said. "Anybody who gets an opportunity to play in a big game like this, it's kind of like playing in a World Series. If it's the ninth inning and two out with the bases loaded and you're down by three runs, you want to have that opportunity to win it all."

Unlike Smith, Lachey not only is happy where he is, but also doesn't have troubles right now.

Although Smith and Lachey have faced each other only three times in their careers, one of the games was the first in their pro careers in the 1985 season opener.

"We were different players back then," Lachey said. "I know that I was fired up because he was the No. 1 pick in the draft. I knew it was

going to be a tough game and I went out there and played the best game that I possibly could. He was a little bit heavier then. He was probably close to 300 pounds [Smith is 275 now]. Now he's big, strong and fast, all the things you don't want to see in a defensive end."

The Chargers won that game, 14-9, and beat the Bills again, 40-7, later in the season. Lachey didn't meet Smith again until the season finale last year, when Washington beat the Bills, 29-14, in a meaningless game.

Smith has yet to get a sack against Lachey. It doesn't help that he's been bothered by a knee injury this season. He played in five regular-season games and clearly isn't 100 percent healthy.

Lachey, though, isn't going to take anything for granted.

"I think even at 50 percent, he's still one of the best defensive ends in the league. He's a great player," he said.

When he was the league's Most Valuable Player last season, Redskins offensive line coach Jim Hanifan called Smith the best pass rusher he'd seen since Hall of Famer Deacon Jones was in his prime.

In last year's Super Bowl, though, Jumbo Elliott was able to block Smith, and the New York Giants were able to run right at him and control the ball for more than 40 minutes in a 20-19 victory.

The Redskins would like to do the same thing.

"I think it gets to the point, especially in the playoff games, where we're going to run. We're going to come after you. We've been successful at that," he said.

If Lachey can control Smith, they'd have a shot at doing it again Sunday.

Super Matchup for Thursday

James Loften vs. Martin Mayhew

Background: Lofton, 35, a 14th-year wide receiver for the Bills. Mayhew, 26, a third-year cornerback for the Redskins.

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