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NOTES : Bitter Bruce Smith Says It Might Be His Last Game for the Bills

January 22, 1992|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MINNEAPOLIS — Bruce Smith says he is 80% recovered from his injured right knee, but adds that he will never fully recover from the pain he felt when he was accused of being a malingerer.

Tuesday, Super Bowl media day, Smith said that his memories are so strong and bitter that he does not want to remain a Buffalo Bill beyond Sunday's game.

Smith, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive end, underwent arthroscopic surgery shortly before the season began, had to be put on the injured-reserve list twice because of recurrent swelling and was active for only five regular-season games.

"During the injury, for the first time, I felt alone," Smith said. "I just felt alone. I just don't want to ever feel like that again.

"I can always put it in the back of my mind, but I can never forget it. That's just one thing that kind of irritates me and haunts me sometimes."

Smith said that during his absence, he received 10 letters at his house laden with racial epithets and that it was being whispered that the real reason he was sitting out was because he had tested positive for drugs.

Smith had been suspended for the first four games of the 1988 season after testing positive, and a second failed test would have resulted in a yearlong suspension.

The rumors were wrong, but Smith hasn't forgotten them.

"It just got to a point where I wanted to do whatever was necessary to finish out this season and if we went to the Super Bowl, do whatever is in my power to make sure we win the Super Bowl," Smith said.

"And let's face it, guys, for the last four or five games I've not been 100%, I've been out here struggling, but I've been doing whatever's necessary to help this team.

"But after this particular ballgame, there are going to be some options I'm going to try and explore."

Options such as leaving the Bills?

"That's a good possibility. . . . Too many things have happened that you just can't forget. Granted, I made some mistakes in my life, but my mistakes have happened, and I mean, it's been four years since then, so I definitely believe that I've cleaned up my act to the utmost.

"That's it as far as I'm concerned."

Buffalo defensive coordinator Walt Corey says he understands Smith's anguish, but that Smith will rethink his position, given time.

"It was like being Cinderella and then all of a sudden you have to go back to the kitchen," Corey said of Smith's ordeal. "A guy of his stature, boy, it had to be tough on him.

"You know, you never know the sensitivity of some of these guys, no matter how big they are and the impressions they give you. The guy has a lot of feelings.

"I think people say crude and rude things maybe not out of dislike, but it's, 'Hey, we want you back and why aren't you back?' You say things that are not what you really want them to be. I'd hate to have to read all those darn letters.

"Sometimes you never feel like you're appreciated as much as you really are. You've got to take things with a grain of salt. Winning will straighten out a hell of a lot of things."

Coach Marv Levy of the Bills said that strong safety Leonard Smith, who was expected to play a key role in the Bills' attempt to stop the Redskins' passing game, probably will sit out the Super Bowl because of a leg infection and fever.

Smith will be replaced by six-year veteran Dwight Drane.

"That takes away a big part of their defense," Redskin quarterback Mark Rypien said. "(Free safety Mark) Kelso and Smith are the two guys who make the calls and get things set up. That's a big loss.

"I know he's a great football player and means a lot to his team."

Redskin kicker Chip Lohmiller knows that he is capable of kicking a 60-yard field goal in the Metrodome. How does he know? Because he kicked a 62-yarder there while he was playing for the University of Minnesota.

"I'm probably the only person who wants to play it here, as a player, anyway," Lohmiller said.

"It's just a dream come true for me. First of all, you want to make the Super Bowl, and then for it to be in my hometown, it's just a great feeling, and it's going to be a lot of fun."

Lohmiller said he made a couple of 66-yarders Tuesday while warming up at the Metrodome.

Lohmiller perhaps jokingly said he is planning a special trip for some of his teammates.

"I'm going to take them out (ice fishing) Friday," he said.

"Probably Earnest Byner, Monte Coleman and Art Monk, if we have some time. I don't know where I'll take them, maybe Lake Minnetonka."

Talkative Redskin middle linebacker Matt Millen might have drawn the most media attention Tuesday for a player who probably won't play Sunday.

"It's still up in the air, but my own feeling is that I probably won't play, based on the way we run our defense and the way they run their offense," Millen said.

"Both of them lend to me not playing. The way they spread the field, you have to have the smaller guy in there to be able to match up with the receivers.

"Anybody who knows me knows I'm pretty realistic about everything, so I saw this coming a long time ago."

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