ASHBURN, Va. - Before someone mentioned it to him early yesterday, Washington Redskins defensive end Kenard Lang did not realize the greatness that will be on the field Sunday at his position.
Lang knew about his teammate, Bruce Smith. And he knew about Reggie White, who came out of a one-year retirement to play for the Carolina Panthers this off-season. But he did not make the connection that the NFL's No. 1 and 2 all-time sack leaders would be on opposite sidelines.
"I guess I never really thought about that," Lang said.
"I'll see what Bruce can do, then I'll see what Reggie can do. Hopefully, Bruce can tie him this week in sacks."
Lang smiled when he said that because he knew White has a significant lead. Smith trails White's 192.5 career sacks by 21.5.
But if Smith gets one sack in Sunday's game at FedEx Field, he would be giving the Redskins what they wanted. Smith signed a five-year deal worth $25 million during the off-season after spending 15 seasons in Buffalo.
He came to the Redskins to help bolster last year's 30th- ranked defense.
"He's had an excellent training camp, and I'm expecting big things out of him," Redskins coach Norv Turner said.
Turner was selective in his use of Smith during the preseason. Smith played about three quarters in three games and showed many of the same skills he has shown in his entire career. On his first play from scrimmage, Smith sacked New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, which brought a chorus of "Bruce" from the Redskins' crowd.
Smith, 37, expects to have more of a chance to hear that cheer from the crowd during the regular season than he had during the preseason. He finished last season starting every game for the Bills, registering seven sacks. It was the first time he failed to reach double digits in sacks since an injury-plagued 1991 season in which he appeared in only eight games.
He did end his Bills career on a high note, collecting 2.5 sacks and nine tackles in the team's first-round playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
"The fact that I'm with a new team, I have to prove something to myself," Smith said. "I have to prove something to my teammates, to the coaching staff and to the fans.
"I'm excited, but this is a different kind of excitement. A more mature type of excitement. Just being around this group of guys, this organization, playing for the Redskins, it is a different kind of excitement. ... But I am looking forward to the opening day, when we are introduced out on the field."
There was talk about Smith just being a pass-rushing specialist because of his age. But Smith refutes that idea, saying he was brought here to play every down.
"That is my thought process, and Coach Turner's thought process when they signed me," Smith said. "Not to be a third-down type player. It was playing the majority part of the game."
Defensive end Marco Coleman switched to the right side to accommodate Smith. The move gave Smith the added responsibility of tutoring first-round pick Chris Samuels.
Samuels and Smith went against each other daily in practice.
For Samuels, it gave him work against one of the game's premier defensive ends. For Smith, it gave him a chance to go against a young, talented tackle he had not seen.
"He's probably the best to ever play the game," Samuels said of Smith. "That was just a great situation going against him. I learned a lot of things from him."
NOTES: Running backs Skip Hicks (knee) and Mike Sellers (shoulder) are questionable for Sunday's game. Linebacker Shawn Barber (knee), running back Chad Dukes (knee), tight end James Jenkins (back) and defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson (knee) are probable. Turner said Wilkinson, who sprained his knee in the second preseason game, should be nearly healthy Sunday.