Redskins' Smith proves third try is all he needed

October 28, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- When fullback Cedric Smith was released by the Washington Redskins for the second time last month, he figured that was his last chance to play for the team.

"That's kind of far-fetched to think a guy can be cut twice in the same year and go back," Smith said yesterday. "It happens, I guess, but I was thinking it might not happen to me."

It turned out it did happen in one of the most improbable stories of the year.

Just three weeks after returning to the team for a second time, Smith not only started against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, but he also got a game ball for the solid blocking job he did in the Redskins' 41-27 victory.

Noted as a blocking back for Emmitt Smith at Florida, Cedric Smith had faced rejection his entire NFL career and hadn't played in a regular-season game the previous two years.

Drafted in the fifth round by Minnesota in 1990, he was there for a season before being waived in 1991. He was picked up by the New Orleans Saints, but was waived at the end of camp in 1992. In 1993, he got a shot in the Miami Dolphins' camp and was cut again. "I kind of thought it was over," he said.

But he thought he could play and kept contacting teams.

"I was kind of forcing the issue," Smith said. "I knew my name probably wasn't out there anymore. I was probably left behind."

Zel,3 The Redskins, making the adjustment from using two tight ends to coach Norv Turner's two-back offense, decided to give him a chance.

Smith pulled a hamstring at camp in Carlisle, Pa., and was starting to think it was over once again.

"You get to a certain age [26] and you say, 'Well, maybe I'm not cut out for this,' " he said. "That was part of my thinking halfway through Carlisle. Maybe I shouldn't even be here."

He was waived at the final cutdown, but was re-signed the next day and then played in the first two games before being waived again.

Smith, trying to earn a living for his wife, Nicole, and their 1-year-old child, was crushed.

"The second time was quite discouraging," Smith said. "I didn't know what I was going to do. I was just floating out there. I've got a family and I needed a job. I know I can play. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, but I persevered."

Smith had options. He has a degree in psychological counseling and worked in a mental hospital last year in Florida, but he was still hoping for another chance to play football.

Meanwhile, Turner was still looking for a blocking fullback. Turner's running game doesn't work well without one, but Brian Mitchell couldn't do it full time because of his special teams duties.

Tight end Frank Wycheck was given a shot, and started the Dallas game, but he wasn't the blocker the Redskins were looking for at the position.

Two days after the Dallas game, Smith was signed again and now is the starter. Turner said he took on Colts linebackers 32 times. Though he had just one carry, Smith helped the Redskins rush for 100 yards.

"He was outstanding," Turner said.

Smith is happy in his blocking role and has gone from being unemployed to getting a game ball in a month.

L "I'm excited," he said. "What can I say? It's overwhelming."

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