ASHBURN, Va. - Perhaps by week's end, the thought of sacking Green Bay's Brett Favre will resonate in Bruce Smith's mind as much as the images of the rubble left at the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center by last week's terrorist attacks.
But, for Smith, a probable future Hall of Fame defensive end, thoughts of the destruction are running quite a bit ahead of getting into the Packers' backfield Monday night, when the Washington Redskins return to the playing field for the first time since the season opener a week ago Sunday.
"We're in the entertainment business, and that's what we get paid to do," Smith said yesterday after practice. "But it's hard to keep your focus and attention on the job at hand when there are situations going on like this. It affects each and every one of us, whether we had personal members of our families that were affected by this or not.
"This could have happened to me or to you. We could have been in one of those planes. We could have been in the World Trade Center with our families, visiting or showing our children these two magnificent buildings. We could have been on tour at the Pentagon."
The team practiced yesterday at Redskin Park for the first time since NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue postponed last weekend's schedule of games.
Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer reported that the team's focus and concentration was such that practice ended 12 minutes earlier than scheduled because goals were achieved so quickly.
But that's not to say that the focus will be as sharp tomorrow, when the Redskins return here after their scheduled day off.
"I don't think anybody can know what to expect, especially in this season," said reserve safety Keith Lyle. "This has been a season to be documented. You know, we lost [Minnesota offensive tackle] Korey Stringer, we lost some college guys, some high school players.
"That was tragic. And now, we're losing more people in this attack. It's been a memorable 2001 season for football and for America. I don't know how anyone is supposed to react except to try and commence with your life and just love your family and friends, be a good American and see what happens."
Said defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson: "It's not this ballclub, and it's not just sports. Everybody in the nation is going to have take those baby steps back to normalcy, if that's possible. It's going to take a lot of work."
Schottenheimer said he's prepared to address any drift in concentration as it appears, but admits that the circumstances are unlike any seen before.
"This is uncharted water for us," said the coach. "If, indeed, it becomes apparent that the concentration and the focus isn't where it needs to be, then I will address it. But as I told our players [yesterday], I am not going to insult anyone by standing up here and saying, `Hey, we have to put this behind us and move on,' because that's not the real world."
Schottenheimer and team owner Daniel Snyder led a group of players Sunday on a visit to the Pentagon, a 30-minute drive from their training site, at about the time when the team was to have opened its home schedule against the Arizona Cardinals.
"It was definitely moving," said Smith. "To see the Pentagon and to realize the devastation that was caused there, that can't even touch the magnitude of what happened at the World Trade Center, the total destruction of those two buildings and people jumping off of the top two floors.
"For me to take a few hours to go down to the Pentagon and thank some of those individuals and talk to some of them is nothing compared to the volunteers and the Army and other services are out there providing."