Emmitt impressed by Cardinals' pitchPosted: Thursday March 13, 2003 5:46 PM
Updated: Friday March 14, 2003 2:44 AM
"It's been a wonderful visit," Smith said. "It feels like I'm being recruited all over again."
The NFL's leading career rusher, released March 27 by Dallas, did nothing to discourage the idea that after 13 seasons and three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, he might sign with the Cardinals, a franchise that has had one playoff victory in the last half-century.
"Right now I can say one thing about the Cardinals is I felt at home," Smith said. "For some reason, coming out here to Arizona, I've always felt like being at home."
Smith signed autographs outside Arizona's headquarters, and said the Cowboys' popularity in the Phoenix area would be a factor in his decision.
"If I do decide to come here, it would have the stadium and this city in a frenzy," Smith said.
Smith met with owner Bill Bidwill and his son Michael, who has had an increasingly larger role in the football operations in recent months.
"I think you absolutely have to believe that the organization is heading into the right direction," Smith said.
He said he had other visits planned but declined to identify the teams. The Cardinals might be the only serious contender left after the Carolina Panthers signed Stephen Davis Wednesday night. Smith said he wanted to make a decision within three or four weeks.
The Cardinals have not talked about money yet. Those conversations will begin with Smith's agent Eugene Parker on Friday, said Rod Graves, Arizona's vice president of football operations.
Smith's said his visit was designed to persuade him that the Cardinals are serious about winning.
"Rather than being concerned about what other teams might offer, I think we need to prepare ourselves to put our best foot forward," Graves said. "I think we've begun that process."
Smith said his desires are based, in order, on the chance of winning, playing time and money.
"I've got to feel like I can contribute and will be able to have the opportunity to contribute to the team's success," Smith said. "I think that coming here there might be an opportunity for that to happen."
"That is a good start," Smith said. "I think they certainly mean business. They're trying to do things to improve. They still have a ways to go."
Smith said the good things he had heard about head coach Dave McGinnis have proven true.
"He's a players' coach. He's straightforward. He's honest as the day is long," Smith said.
McGinnis was an assistant with the Chicago Bears when Walter Payton played. Smith broke Payton's career rushing record last season.
"The similarities I see in those two guys is incredible," McGinnis said. "I told him that a couple of times today, just the aura they have around them and the quiet confidence that he moves with, he talks with, he displays. It's impressive to be around, and he's got plenty left."
The Cardinals insist that signing Smith would be more than a public relations move. Graves said Smith could help the team both as a player and as a leader. It's a role Smith would gladly accept.
"I don't want to look at myself as being a grandfather," Smith said. "I look at myself as being a brother to my teammates. ... I think I can relate to younger players. It has to be reciprocal. They have to be more willing and open to understand what it takes to become a proven winner.
"You don't become a proven winner by doing the same things you've done all your life. If you continue to do what you've always done, you'll continue to get what you've always got."