Smith eventually lost his starting job, didn't carry the ball in the last four games and finished with 470 yards rushing. In one game he rushed 12 times for six yards. He never worked his way out of Gibbs's doghouse, and on Feb. 1,1989, a year and a day after his Super Bowl heroics, the Redskins decided not to re-sign him, leaving him unprotected under Plan B.
Smith worked out for the Miami Dolphins, who offered to pay him $100,000 for the season if he made the team, but Smith wanted more money. Knee and ankle injuries that required surgery during his career at Texas Tech caused him to flunk a physical with the Phoenix Cardinals. But the San Diego Chargers offered him a $250,000 salary if he could make their roster, and he signed with them. Smith suffered a setback in training camp when he severely sprained his left ankle, but his chances of succeeding in San Diego were damaged even more by his association with a suspected drug dealer.
"Steve Ortmayer, the director of player personnel, said I'd been seen with a drug dealer," Smith says. "I'd seen this guy after practice one day, and he asked me if I had a roommate. If not, he said, I could move in with him. I told him I already had a place. Some people on the team saw me shake his hand. The next day, the Chargers made me take a drug test."
Two weeks later he was cut. According to a Charger source, "He was seen with a drug dealer. [Coach Dan] Henning said, 'That scared the hell out of us.' Timmy didn't have football smarts. He wasn't focused on the job at hand. He was worried about what was going on that night."
Smith moved in with a friend near the Texas Tech campus in Lubbock, began working out and spent the 1989 NFL season following the progress of the league's running backs. Having fired his agent, Steve Endicott, he called player-personnel directors himself. The Dallas Cowboys agreed to give him a tryout.
"[Cowboy director of pro personnel] John Wooten was straight with me," Smith says. "He said they'd sign me, but because I'd had a bad reputation in the past, that I was supposedly using drugs, that I'd definitely be randomly tested."
Last May he reported to Dallas, determined to make a good impression. He learned both the tailback and fullback positions and was a surprise early in training camp. But when the Cowboys traded for fullback Alonzo Highsmith on Sept. 3 and when their No. 1 draft pick, Florida running back Emmitt Smith, ended his hold-out a day later, Timmy lost his job again.
"Emmitt was a No. 1 draft pick making $1 million," Smith says. "I was making $175,000. They had to prove he's a good investment. It would have made everybody look bad if I'd made the team ahead of Emmitt."
It is Smith's opinion that he has been blackballed in the NFL by Bobby Beathard, formerly the general manager of the Redskins and now the G.M. of the Chargers. "Players blackball themselves," Beathard says. "It's easy to use somebody else as an excuse. Dan Henning and [Cowboy coach] Jimmy Johnson wanted to give him a fresh start. If he's a good player and can help a team, nobody is going to listen to me. The Cowboys didn't ask me once about Timmy Smith. Timmy is his own worst enemy."
At times these days Smith still sounds like the naive rookie of Super Bowl XXII. According to Williams, Gibbs didn't want Smith to be told he was starting against the Broncos until right before the pregame warmups, because Gibbs was afraid to give Smith too much time to think about it.