Smith clobbered Harbaugh numerous times and sacked him once, for Smith's sixth sack of the season. (He also has blocked two field goal attempts.) He is the only one of Buffalo's aging stars who is performing as well as he did in the team's heyday, from 1990 to '94. Smith is playing with fury, which is fitting, since he is furious with Bills owner Ralph Wilson.
Just before last season Smith, a 12-year veteran, agreed to have his contract renegotiated in what he thought was a move to clear room under the salary cap for management to pursue free agents. "I took a pay cut to help the team," he says. "Little did I know they were going to turn around and sign one of our own players to a big multimillion-dollar contract." That would be left tackle John Fina, who got himself a five-year deal for $15 million, every penny of which Smith apparently begrudges him. "I just felt like I'd been stabbed in the back," says Smith, who is signed through the 1997 season.
Smith hinted that he might hold out, but on the eve of the '96 season opener he announced that he would "put aside the fact that I'd been treated unfairly and put my trust and confidence in the integrity of Mr. Wilson that this issue will be resolved immediately following the season." The angrier Smith is, goes the conventional wisdom in Buffalo, the better he plays. For this reason the Bills are unlikely to renegotiate his contract during the season. Meanwhile, Smith's kvetching about his contract has begun to wear on his teammates, who consider him something of a "me" guy. "He's something special," said linebacker Chris Spielman after Sunday's victory. "Just ask him."
Smith is not the only Buffalo star to have had his feelings injured recently by the front office. Wideout Andre Reed, also in his 12th year, tested the free-agency waters after the '95 season and found them stagnant. Partly because there were so many good receivers available in last spring's draft, and partly because Reed had missed 10 games last season with a hamstring injury, he got no offers. The Bills agreed to take him back, but only after making him run to show that the leg was healed.
"That really hurt," says Reed, the most prolific receiver in Buffalo history, with 719 catches. "As much as I've done for this organization—they know what I can do, what kind of work ethic I have. They should have known I wasn't going to lay down in the off-season and come back lame."
Reed made a 60-yard touchdown catch in the Bills' season-opening 23-20 overtime win over the New York Giants. Did he feel vindicated? As he left the field at Giants Stadium he was overheard shouting to no one in particular, "Hamstring? Kiss my ass!"
Reed's vindication continued against the Colts as he made two of the game's critical catches. The first came in the second quarter, on first-and-10 from the Colts' 30. Collins faked to running back Darick Holmes, then hummed a touchdown strike to Reed, who had beaten Indianapolis cornerback Ray Buchanan.
With a little less than 10 minutes to go in overtime, on third-and-six from the Colts' 44, Collins consulted Reed in the huddle. "Andre, how's that quick slant look to the strong side?" the quarterback asked.
"It looks good, but get it to me quick and low," said Reed, who made a lunging snag for an 11-yard gain. Six plays later Christie ended the game.
As the opposing players came together on the field at the end of the game, Harbaugh sought out Smith, who got a big laugh out of what the rival quarterback had to say: "I agree with you, Bruce. I think you're definitely underpaid."