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Yet Smith was blamed by some for the Dallas Cowboys' drop to 24th in
the NFL in offensive production.
It's enough to make Smith wonder what he must do to please his critics.
``Many people would say they had a successful season if they produced
what I did after what I had to go through,'' Smith said.
``Besides being hurt I had the mental strain of all my frustrations. I
think I had a hell of a season considering what happened. But some
people wanted to rip me and rip the team.''
Smith hurt from his ankle to the top of his head, which he landed on
while diving in the season opener against the Chicago Bears.
His lips tightened as he explained the pain of last year's lost season
in which his injuries, teamed with those to the offensive line,
now-retired tight end Jay Novacek and Eric Bjornson, grounded the
``It was a long, hard year,'' said Smith, who underwent surgery in
January for removal of bone spurs from his right ankle. ``But this one
is going to be different.''
Coach Barry Switzer agrees.
``Emmitt is quick and that's what we missed last year when he was
injured,'' Switzer said. ``He was a half-step slow to the hole sometimes
because of his injuries, but you have to admire him for wanting to
Quarterback Troy Aikman said Smith has been impressive so far in camp.
``Emmitt is working hard, and as far as I'm concerned he looks as good
as he's ever looked,'' Aikman said.
That may have something to do with his new hairdo. Smith pulled off his
hat to reveal a shaved head, his good luck symbol for the new season.
``It's all part of my new attitude,'' Smith said. ``I'm ready for boot
camp. I'm ready for the best season I've ever had.''
That would take some doing. In 1995, Smith rushed for 1,773 yards and
scored 25 touchdowns. In seven years, he has won four NFL rushing titles
and amassed 10,160 yards and a Super Bowl MVP award.
``My physical strength is as good as it has ever been, and my body fat
is down,'' said Smith, who has never been known as a weight-lifting
fiend.``I'm quicker than I've ever been. My ankle was healed with
surgery. I'm ready for the wars. I repeat, I'm ready for the wars. I'm
almost 100 percent.''
A determined Smith behind a healthy offensive line is a welcome sight
for Cowboys fans.
``Last year we couldn't pass the ball because of all our injuries and
they just teed off on our running game,'' said Smith, who averaged a
career-low 3.7 yards per carry. ``This year it's going to be different.
We've got a training camp where we can regain our focus. We're not going
to be flying all over the country. We're going to get our running game
As for those who say Smith is over the hill: ``I could play another
eight years if I can stay healthy,'' he said. ``Keep me healthy and see
With that, Smith put his hat back on his shaved head and walked away without a limp.
The Orioles got a six-game road trip underway with a 5-1 victory over
the Texas Rangers on Monday night, improving Baltimore's record to 31-17
away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
``I think our team plays better on the road,'' said Orioles first
baseman Rafael Palmeiro, whose two-run homer in the sixth put them ahead
for good. ``I think we're more relaxed. We look forward to it. We can
play with anybody in this game. We've showed that.''
Palmeiro says he gets no special thrill out of beating his old team, the
``I get asked the same question every time I come here,'' said Palmeiro,
who signed as a free agent with Baltimore in the spring of 1993 after
four seasons with Texas. ``It's the same as beating anybody else. It
isn't special to beat them anymore. It's just like any other team.''
Palmeiro, who played for the Rangers from 1989-93, put the Orioles in
front 2-1 in the sixth with his 19th homer. Geronimo Berroa led off with
a single, then scored when Palmeiro hit Darren Oliver's first pitch to
the grassy slope behind the center-field wall.
``He still makes his home here,'' Orioles manager Davey Johnson said.
``He has a lot of fond memories and a lot of friends. He's always liked
playing here. He hits good everywhere, but I think he feels more relaxed
Jimmy Key (13-6) allowed six hits and one run in six innings, struck out
seven and walked one to pull out of a tailspin during which he lost five
of six decisions. Key outpitched Oliver (6-10), who allowed four runs
and six hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Key gave up a first-inning run on Will Clark's RBI single, but he shut
out Texas for the next five innings.
``I threw better,'' said Key, who has allowed one run in 15 innings
against Texas this season. ``I'm still struggling in the first. After
that, I threw real well. I threw a lot of pitches for six innings (112),
but there's a lot of guys in this lineup that give me trouble.''
Jeffrey Hammonds added a run-scoring triple in the seventh, driving in
Brady Anderson, who walked. Oliver walked Berroa intentionally, then
followed with a walk to Palmeiro to load the bases. Cal Ripken's
groundout drove in the second run of the inning to extend Baltimore's
lead to 4-1.
Baltimore made it 5-1 in the eighth when Jeff Reboulet doubled and
scored on Anderson's single.
The Rangers have lost six of their last eight.
Oliver said Key's pitching performance forced him to be almost perfect.
``In a tight game like that when the other guy's pitching well, you
can't afford to make mistakes like that,'' Oliver said.
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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