SI Vault
the NFL
Peter King
December 14, 1992
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 14, 1992

The Nfl

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


Here's how the salary of the Cowboys' Emmitt Smith, the NFL's second-leading rusher, compares with the pay of the league's other running backs with the same surname.

Player, Team

Yards Rushing


Emmitt Smith, Cowboys



Sammie Smith, Broncos



Steve Smith, Raiders



And with the salaries of well-paid smiths in baseball.

Player, Position, Team


Lee Smith, pitcher, Cards


Zane Smith, pitcher, Pirates


Ozzie Smith, shortstop, Cards



Quick wrists are apparently worth more than a strong leg.

Player, Position, Team


Eddie Murray, 1B, Mets
Alltime RBI rank: 22


Eddie Murray, K, Bucs
Alltime Scoring rank: 13



What's the going rate for a good player out of the bullpen?


1992 Wins+Saves


Dave Smith, Cubs



Steve Young, 49ers




After practice one day last week, Buffalo defensive end Bruce Smith sat in the living room of his new home in Hamburg, N.Y., his left arm draped over a cushy sofa. Across the room was a big-screen TV, down the hall a gourmet kitchen and out in the garage three cars. He talked about how his comfortable life-style is, essentially, a trade-off.

"Let's face it," Smith said, "the human body is not made for football. When you play, you have to accept that. I tell my wife, 'I'm going to die early,' and she says, 'Don't say things like that.' I'm not complaining. I get an awful lot of good things out of football. I chose to be a football player, and I accept everything that goes with that decision—the pain, the injuries, the pressure, the chance I might die early. Basically I'm giving my body up to support a better life-style for me and everyone close to me."

The paralyzing injury to Jet defensive end Dennis Byrd on Nov. 29 (page 22), the second such injury to occur in an NFL game in 12 months, sent chills through a lot of players last week. But not one of them quit the game or whined about the risks involved in playing it. Nobody, they said, should be feeling sorry for them.

Most players, like Smith, seem to think that the risk of suffering a paralyzing injury—it has happened to one out of the league's 1,500 players in each of the last two seasons—is worth taking. Says Raider cornerback Terry McDaniel, "I can't go out there and think it might happen to me if I hit somebody. If I go out there thinking like that, I won't be out there for long anyway."

However, an injury as severe as Byrd's is hard for even the most reckless player to ignore. "For the first few days after something like that happens, it's all you can think about," says Falcon safety Scott Case. "You're extra careful about things. But then, to be truthful, a week later you're back throwing yourself around. This kind of survivor's second nature takes over. You simply can't play this game timidly."

"For the people who don't play the game, watching the replays of Byrd getting hurt are hard," says Atlanta safety Jeff Donaldson. "But if you're a player, it's almost harder. It's a lot more vivid. You sit there and watch it, and you know, you just know, that you've had the same kind of hits. And, I think, you shake your head and wonder why some people get hurt and not others."

Redskin safety Brad Edwards got a scare last season when, after colliding with Bear running back Neal Anderson, he lost feeling in his extremities. "I had a couple minutes that I couldn't feel anything," says Edwards. "That's real scary. Fortunately, feeling came back. The speed of the game is probably outgrowing the ability of the body to handle it."

"We ought to have state troopers out there writing tickets for reckless driving," says Buffalo linebacker Darryl Talley. "You can't believe the collisions. But I want to be the best, and to do that, I've got to throw my body around."

Eventually, as Smith knows, a football player eventually pays. "This sport takes a toll," says Falcon tackle Mike Kenn. "Sooner or later you pay the guy at the toll window."

Continue Story
1 2 3