Smith played little in Cowboys loss

Updated: November 3, 2003, 9:38 PM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- For the first time in 17 years, Bruce Smith was a reserve. He's not happy about it at all.

The defensive end said Monday he will seek an explanation from Redskins coach Steve Spurrier for Smith's limited role in Sunday's 21-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

"Absolutely. I want to know what their intentions are," Smith said. "I have goals that I'd like to achieve for myself, team goals and individual goals. At some point and time in your career, you have to take a stand and be a little selfish."

Asked if he felt Spurrier was singling him out by not starting him, Smith said "Yes."

"I didn't play very much," Smith said. "I don't know what the game plan was as far the coaching staff was concerned, but this was a decision made by Steve Spurrier."

Regan Upshaw started in place of Smith, who entered the game in the second series and finished with one tackle. The last time Smith played in a game he didn't start was 1986, his second year in Buffalo.

When told of Smith's comments, Spurrier said: "I'm sorry he feels that way. He's not being singled out."

The 40-year-old Smith's main asset is his pass-rushing ability, but he has just 1 sacks and hasn't come close to the quarterback in weeks. He remains two sacks behind Reggie White's career record.

"We thought Regan had played as well or better and deserved a chance to start," Spurrier said. "Now, the next game, I don't know who's going to start. If the defensive coaches say Bruce played better than Regan yesterday, Bruce will start. It's very simple."

Taking a different tact, Spurrier came to his own defense Monday as he discussed the four-game losing streak that has the Redskins (3-5) in last place in the NFC East. The coach usually absorbs most of the blame for his team's problems in order to protect his players, but not this time.

"It's a natural tendency around here to blame the coaches for everything that goes bad," Spurrier said. "I hope you guys have been watching the games like we have. We're trying to coach better, and we need to play better, also."

Spurrier also shot back at critics who say the recent results prove his pass-happy offense can't thrive in the NFL. The Fun 'n' Gun has effectively been neutralized by frequent blitzing; the Redskins have been sacked more than any team in the league.

"I've been coaching 20 years, and this is not the first time we've seen blitzes," Spurrier said.

The coach said his Florida team had a similar slump in 1999.

"Everybody wrote that everyone's got this offense down now, and certainly it appears they do," Spurrier said. "It appears they can blitz guys, and we can't block them."

But Washington's problems go far beyond failed pass-protection schemes. They are a team plagued by confusing signals from ownership on down, with almost daily rumors about the future of Spurrier and his assistants sandwiched around a muddled series of player moves.

The latest report centered on a rift between Spurrier and offensive line coach Kim Helton. Spurrier dismissed the report, saying he doesn't plan to fire any assistants.

"I'm determined not to," Spurrier said. "There's nothing wrong with these coaches."

Spurrier said he doesn't feel he's lost the confidence of his players, but that could be debatable following the interview with Smith, whose pregnant pauses and sighs said as much as his answers. Asked if it is still possible for the Redskins to turn their season around, Smith waited four thoughtful seconds before saying, without much conviction: "Anything's possible."

The mistakes against the Cowboys were the same that have beset the team since opening day: too many penalties, no pass protection, no pass rush and an overall lack of discipline and comprehension regarding the offensive and defensive schemes.

Patrick Ramsey was sacked four times. There were eight penalties, keeping the Redskins on pace to break the single-season NFL record.

Cornerback Champ Bailey said it might be time for a players' meeting to air out concerns. "We've definitely got to convince ourselves that things are going to turn around," Bailey said. "If we don't believe it, it'll never happen."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press