Armed with sack record, 'Skins' Smith set to retire

19-year career has only three games remaining


December 11, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Bruce Smith, the league's all-time leader in sacks, announced that he will retire after this - his 19th - season.

The Washington Redskins defensive end made his announcement yesterday at the team's practice facility three days after collecting his 199th sack against the New York Giants' Jesse Palmer and surpassing Reggie White's league record of 198.

Smith, who spent 15 seasons with the Buffalo Bills and the past four with the Redskins, said the team's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 27 will be his last in the NFL.

"Those are my intentions unless there's some unusual circumstance that comes into play," he said. "More than likely, these will be the final three games of my career."

Asked to elaborate on the "unusual circumstance," Smith, 40, replied, "I just never go into a situation saying I'll never do anything."

Smith's best days as a pass-rushing threat, however, have passed. Years of wear and tear have depleted his strength and speed, and Regan Upshaw has unseated Smith as Washington's starting right defensive end.

Still, it's hard to argue with Smith's legacy. He has taken down 74 different quarterbacks and has recorded a sack against every NFL team except the Ravens, Buffalo and San Diego.

His fourth-quarter sack of Palmer in the Redskins' 20-7 victory over the Giants on Sunday was Smith's fourth of the season and touched off a raucous celebration by teammates, who exchanged hugs with Smith on the field and on the sideline.

Smith, who called his wife, son and mother after the sack, was one of team owner Daniel Snyder's high-profile free-agent signings before the 2000 season.

Washington never finished better than 8-8 during Smith's tenure, but Smith said he had no regrets about joining the Redskins.

"Playing here with the Washington Redskins, it means the world to me because this is not just going to end when my career is over," he said. "I'll remain friends, and these guys will be part of my family for the rest of my life."

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