Emmitt: Speculation 'bugs me a lot'

Updated: November 6, 2003, 2:10 AM ET
Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There shouldn't be so much concern about a crowded backfield once Emmitt Smith returns to the Arizona Cardinals in two weeks or so.

Smith says there is plenty of room for two running backs, himself and Marcel Shipp.

Shipp, who took over when Smith broke his shoulder blade against Dallas on Oct. 5, has rushed for 165 and 141 yards, respectively, in Arizona's victories over San Francisco and Cincinnati the past two weeks.

Already, there is wide speculation about what will happen when the NFL's career rushing leader comes back. The talk bothers Smith.

"Yeah, it bugs me a lot," he said Thursday, "because people are making it out like it's a problem, and it's not."

Smith said he has nothing but admiration for the way Shipp has performed, and the way the offensive line has opened holes for the young back.

Smith, 34, had just 192 yards rushing in 65 carries before he was hurt, an average of 3.0 yards. Shipp, 25, has 447 yards in 102 attempts, 4.4 yards per carry.

While he praised Shipp, Smith noted a big reason the ground game has done so well in the last two games is the lack of turnovers.

Smith said with all the early-season turnovers, the running game wasn't able to develop because the team was playing from behind and had to throw. The Cardinals have had just two turnovers the last two weeks after 18 the first six games.

"I believe there is," Smith said when asked if there are enough carries for two backs. "When you're getting 35 or 29 carries a game, I know there is."

Shipp carried 35 times against San Francisco and 29 times against Cincinnati.

"He'll probably get 35 carries again this week," coach Dave McGinnis said.

McGinnis is avoiding all speculation about what will happen when Smith returns. Shipp is the No. 1 back now, he said, and when Smith returns, things will work out.

"It is not a problem," the coach said.

When he signed with Arizona, Smith did so with the assurance he would be the No. 1 back. But he and Shipp said Thursday it wouldn't matter who starts.

"You know what a big deal is to me? Winning," Smith said. "That's why I'm here. I am willing to do whatever I need to do to help this team win."

Shipp echoed that sentiment.

"I'm a team guy. I want to win," he said. "Regardless of whether I'm the star or not even getting the ball, whatever I can do to help this team win I'll do it."

Shipp, who came to the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts, thought he would be the starter after the team signed him to a contract extension last year. When Smith was signed, Shipp moved into the backup role and didn't complain.

Shipp knows he's making the coaching staff's decision a tough one.

"That's my job. If I was to make it easy for them I wouldn't be doing my job," Shipp said. "But regardless of the role that they see for me, I'll be content with it."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press