•Late in the third quarter, Cowboys' ball, second-and-nine on the Denver 15. Smith, who has rushed 10 times in the quarter, lakes a clump pass live yards and lowers his head into a stand of Bronco defenders. Tackled, he stays down, having had his bell rung. After a scary minute, he sits up, then walks off the field. On the bench, he is further revived with smelling salts.
•Three plays after being knocked senseless, he scores what proves to be the game-winning touchdown on a one-yard run.
In defeat, Bronco tight end Shannon Sharpe sized up the Cowboys and their prospects. "I think they can win the Super Bowl without Deion," said Sharpe, who, after making 10 catches in Week 1, caught five on Sunday. "What sets them apart [from the 49ers] is Emmitt Smith."
"He's a warrior," agreed Bronco coach Mike Shanahan. "If he isn't the best running back in the league, I don't want to face the guy who is."
Smith is that unlikeliest of superstar backs: He plays hurt; he blocks with the zeal of a free-agent fullback. He sat out the first two regular-season games of the '93 season while engaged in a contract dispute with Jones, whom he refers to as the Man. Smith finally reported after signing a four-year, $13.6 million deal in '93—a contract roughly the size of Sanders's signing bonus. So it was interesting last week to monitor the reaction of Smith, who has had to scrape for every nickel the Man has ever given him, while Jones has now broken the bank for a part-time player with an aversion to physical contact.
As the Cowboys arranged themselves in numerical order for Saturday morning's team photo, minutes after being officially informed that Prime Time was on board, one wondered if just a few of those smiles weren't forced. It had been a tense week for defensive tackle Russell Maryland, who was rumored to be in danger of being traded or cut. Maryland's $1.8 million salary would have to be lopped to accommodate Deion. After the team picture, Jones sought out Maryland and assured him that those rumors had no substance. And how about Pro Bowl safety Darren Woodson—was he feigning cheerfulness? His contract is up this season, and the signing of Sanders will make it difficult for Jones to pay him market value next season (page 90).
Smith, for his part, professed to welcome Sanders. His warm response was attributable at least in part to the fact that Jones had done a very smart thing. Late in the negotiations with Sanders, he called Aikman, Irvin and Smith into his office and gave them the chance to veto the deal.
"I had a conversation with them to detect whether this thing was going a little overboard," said Jones during Sunday's game. "I wanted to get a sense of whether or not we were overreaching."
Aikman had already signed off on the deal; the quarterback spent the first 25 minutes of Thursday's practice in Jones's office, restructuring his contract so that the sacks of cash the owner was throwing at Sanders could be squeezed under the salary cap. Smith, too, gave the Man his personal green light and appreciated having been consulted by Jones.
"It made us feel like part of the organization," he said after Sunday's game. "The Man asked me did I have any problem with it? I told him, 'No, we need [Sanders] here.' He said, 'I want to hear it from your mouth: Do you want him on the team?' I said, 'Yes, I want him on the team.' "