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The NFL
Peter King
August 05, 2002
Cold Reception Warrick Dunn may not fit into the Falcons' retooled backfield the way he thinks
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August 05, 2002

The Nfl

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After three poor seasons the strange, apathetic career of quarterback Ryan Leaf ended in retirement last week for three reasons: Leaf didn't love the game, he elected against having surgery on his injured right wrist and going through the subsequent rehab, and he didn't need football. One close football acquaintance of Leaf's told SI, "Ryan has most every dime from that huge [$11.25 million] signing bonus in 1998 because he invested mostly in bonds. He hasn't gotten killed in the stock market. The fact is, he doesn't need to work."

According to Bobby Beathard, who as San Diego's general manager in 1998 took Leaf with the second pick in the draft, the quarterback in fact "hated" to work. "He was the worst-conditioned athlete on our team every year," Beathard said on Sunday. "[But] nobody in the history of football worked harder at alienating everyone around him than Ryan Leaf did."

Emmitt's Lofty Goal
Smith Wants to Make Run at 20K

Emmitt Smith is 540 yards from breaking one of football's most hallowed records, Walter Payton's mark of 16,726 career rushing yards. Playing in an offense that will rely on him to be a workhorse, he will—barring injury—certainly eclipse the record this season. Smith speaks reverently of passing the late Payton, who admired Smith so much that before he died in 1999, he asked him to be there for Payton's son, Jarrett, if needed.

At 33 Smith is old for a running back, but he's not the retiring type. In fact, after his first training camp workout in San Antonio last Saturday he told SI, "I want 20,000 yards. That's the next goal, and I don't see any problem getting it. I don't feel like I'm at the finish line at all."

Last season Smith had his lowest rushing total since his rookie year, finishing with 1,021 yards. (He needed 56 yards in the season finale to reach the 1,000-yard mark for an NFL-record 11th straight year.) He'll have to return to his dominant ways of old to have any chance at 20,000. He's 3,813 yards shy, and no back has ever been as productive as late in his career as Smith dreams of being.

He says he doesn't want to have to leave Dallas to make a run at 20,000, but he will if he must. Though he knows that the Cowboys will eventually ask him to move along, he says, "It'll be hard for them to say, 'Cut him,' if I'm doing my job."

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