Broncos' Smith not retired, but agrees to go on reserve/retired list

Updated: February 16, 2008, 1:44 AM ET
Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Rod Smith isn't ready to walk away from the NFL despite two hip operations in the last year.

He did, however, provide the Denver Broncos with some salary cap relief by agreeing to go on the reserve/retired list Friday.

Rod Smith

Smith

"He didn't give it a second thought," agent Tom Mills told The Associated Press. "He was comfortable being put on that list."

Despite the move, Smith's career isn't over, at least not officially. He can still return to the team -- provided he recovers from his latest operation.

That wasn't the case last year when Smith, the franchise's career leader in every major receiving category, missed the entire season after undergoing microfracture hip surgery.

Mills said Smith's rehabilitation from his second surgery last month is going well.

"But he's a long way from doing anything taxing on the hip," Mills said. "He hasn't closed the door on playing again, but he's being a realist about it. It's going to take progress."

The Broncos will retain Smith's rights, but he won't count against the Broncos' roster limit or collect his salary as long as he remains on the reserve/retired list. For Smith to come off the list, he has to apply for reinstatement to the league office, in accordance to league rules.

He's scheduled to make $1.5 million next season.

"If it turns out that he can contribute later, I'm sure they'd welcome him back," Mills said. "It just gives them flexibility for life without him."

Smith spent last season on the sideline in sweats, dispensing advice to teammates as he watched the Broncos (7-9) slip to their first losing season in 1999. He said in December that being a spectator was frustrating.

"I've always been this way: if we're going to get our butt kicked, then I want to get mine kicked, too," Smith said. "But trust me, I'm definitely taking my lumps either way, on the sideline or out there."

Smith's hip was in such disrepair -- torn labrum, frayed cartilage, bone spurs, floating fragments -- that his surgeon couldn't believe he had played on it at all. He first experienced pain in his hip in 2004.

"My mentality is what kept me here this long, being able to withstand pain and play hurt," Smith said last season. "I was always told you play this game as long as you can and if I've played my last football game, I did that. And so I'm OK with that."

With Smith out and Javon Walker battling knee trouble all season, Brandon Marshall stepped in and caught 102 passes for 1,325 yards last season. It was the third-most receptions by a second-year player in NFL history.

Smith spent his rookie season in 1994 on the Broncos' practice squad, but then helped Denver to seven postseason appearances, three AFC West crowns and two Super Bowl wins. Denver has a 126-70 record in games in which Smith has played.

"By any statistical measure, he's one of the best they've ever had," Mills said. "But his contributions go beyond that -- he's a great team leader and very charitable. He'll be remembered as an all-time great."

Smith holds franchise records for career receptions (849), receiving yards (11,389), touchdown catches (68), touchdowns (71) and 100-yard games (31). The Missouri Southern product leads all undrafted players in every major receiving category.

Smith hopes those numbers aren't final.

"It's totally dependent on his physical health," Mills said. "He's focusing on getting healthy."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press