Smith plans to shoulder his load

January 14, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

When running back Emmitt Smith suffered a shoulder separation in the Dallas Cowboys' final regular-season game two weeks ago, the doctors told him the injury would take four weeks of rest to heal.

"I don't have four weeks to rest," Smith said.

Instead, Smith plans to start Sunday against the Green Bay Packers when the Cowboys open the playoffs looking toward a second straight Super Bowl victory.

Smith admitted yesterday that his right shoulder still isn't completely healed and that he doesn't know what it's going to be like when he takes that first shot on it.

Although he's been practicing this week, he said, "I haven't taken any direct shots."

He added: "I expect to take a number of shots on it Sunday. I hope that it will [hold up]. I pray that it will. I'm just going to go out and do the best that I can and if my shoulder holds up, great. If it doesn't, hopefully, we can do something to win the game."

Smith knows the Packers may try to hit his shoulder.

"I expect the Packers to come in and do whatever it takes to win. If they think going for my shoulder is what it's going to take, they're going to probably try to do that. I'm not going to worry about my shoulder. If it holds up, it holds up. If I can last, I'm going to last. . . . If I can't, you're going to have to wait to see on Sunday," he said.

Even looking at the videotape of practice, Smith said he hasn't been running the way he normally does.

"I'm not moving my arm the way I normally do," he said.

Smith proved in the season finale against the New York Giants that it'll take a lot to sideline him.

He played the second half and overtime against the Giants with the separated shoulder and carried the team to a 16-13 victory that gave the Cowboys the NFC Eastern Division title, a bye last weekend and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It also helped him win the league MVP award.

After getting 109 yards in the first half before being injured, he added 59 in the second half and overtime to finish with 168 yards to win the rushing title for the third straight year with 1,486 yards.

He caught an 11-yard pass in overtime and ran for a pair of first downs to set up Eddie Murray's game-winning field goal.

L He did it as he fought back the tears from the searing pain.

When he was asked about the pain, he said, "Pain? You can't imagine. You can't imagine how much pain I was actually in."

He's played in pain before, but nothing like this.

"When I was in high school, I played with two ankle sprains and a bruised quad in the playoffs, but nothing of this stature," he said. "This was something new to me, a new experience, a new injury. It's something I've never been through. It was a difficult decision [to keep playing]. I felt I could get it done."

Smith, though, won't say the Giants game was his best under the circumstances.

"I think my performance basically speaks for itself. I'm not the type who likes to really talk about his performance. I like to go out and let my actions show and let everybody else come up to their own conclusions about it," he said.

By playing with the injury, Smith could risk shortening his career, but he doesn't worry about that.

"I'm not thinking about it. I'm not looking at it in that manner. I'm just trying to take one day at a time, one game at a time. I just want to go out and do the best I can as long as I play the game," he said.

Teams don't generally have much sympathy for players if their careers are shortened by injury. Owner Jerry Jones is suing several former players over workmen's compensation claims.

"I'm not going to comment on that," Smith said.

And though some would question the wisdom of risking losing Smith for the entire postseason in a game in which the Cowboys are favored by 14 points, Dallas can point to the early season for why he is essential.

He missed the first two games in a holdout and carried only once for 1 yard against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Cowboys went 0-3 in those games. They went 12-1 in the other 13 with Smith.

One of those victories was a 36-14 thrashing of the Packers when Smith got 71 yards in his first start after his holdout.

The Cowboys know it won't be that easy this time if Smith's shoulder can't take the pounding.

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