Emmitt on the run

Arizona running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, talks Cardinals and 49ers:

Q: How was it for you guys to get that first win under your belts last week?

Smith: Well, you know, it's always fun whenever you can execute the X's and O's of the game and make things happen.

Q: Are you the answer at quarterback?

Smith: No, they just assigned me the assistant coordinator job (Laughs.)

Q: Will you be calling your own number from now on?

Smith: Nah, I doubt it very seriously.

Q: How was it throwing that touchdown pass last week?

Smith: It's always fun when you can do something positive on the field and something that people wouldn't expect. It adds an element of surprise to the game. It's like running a successful reverse when you have everyone focusing on you and obviously the reverse opens up for the player to score a touchdown. In this instance I had an opportunity to do something that I've never done before and that is throw the ball. And it ended up working positive for us.

Q: Has your offseason workout program what's kept you going at this point in your career?

Smith: Well, I think that's part of it. You are around training with the team, and that's what I've always done. Dennis (Green) had an opportunity to see it up close and personal. He saw how hard I worked and how much I was committed to the program and how much I was committed to playing the game of football and committing myself to the fall. So I guess it all works together.

Q: What is any different from the previous season?

Smith: No, it wasn't.

Q: How do you keep from wearing down at this point in your career?

Smith: I don't think any player is out there trying to prove anything to anyone out there in terms of wearing down. History and statistics speak for themselves. One thing that they can't account for is the individual players doing what they are doing right now. We are in a different era and different time frame and different players playing the game. They have different bodies and different genetic makeups. Not only that, but we have access to things that some of the older players and historians can look to in order to gauge and try to find some kind of correlation between the two and make some kind of prediction. The one thing that history cannot predict is the heart of the player and cannot gauge the game has evolved and see what the players are doing to help extend their careers.

Q: Has your game changed much?

Smith: I haven't evaluated my running style or anything of that nature and compared it to what I used to do. To me, I think it's all the same.

Q: What are your thoughts about Niners running back Kevan Barlow?

Smith: I think he's an excellent running back. He's doing a great job for the 49ers. He's a force to be reckoned with. Trust me, our defense is thinking about him like the 49ers are probably thinking about our running game. He's just a tremendous athlete and a tremendous player. He's got a great heart and a great passion for the game.

Q: Are there any similarities between the Cardinals now and your early days with the Dallas Cowboys?

Smith: I tell you the similar thing that I do see – even though you have different athletes – is the attitude and the work ethic that Dennis is instilling in the ball club, the focus and the commitment and the dedication to the things that we are running is very similar. I think also that the thing we are trying to do is get to a level of execution and perfection that every team strives for. That's what we are striving for.

Q: Do you see yourself being a part of this team when it is playoff-caliber?

Smith: Yes I do. Hopefully this year. I tell you what, the components are there. We need to execute and do the right things. With a little bit of good fortune in terms of health then we have a chance and a shot at it. Every week teams have a shot at winning. Teams that go out there and perform at the best level and execute the Xs and Os strive for perfection.

Q: Does parity in the NFL nowadays give you a better chance?

Smith: I think the margin is there. The parity shift is not necessarily even but you have skillful players on every ball club and players that can make something happen at any point in time during the game. As long as you have that you have to believe that you have the opportunity to go out and win.

Q: Are you more of a leader now than you were earlier in your career?

Smith: No, I don't think my leadership role has changed much. I think if it has it has been reduced because of Denny. Denny has a level of leadership that commands everybody's respect and therefore I don't feel like I have to be the rah-rah guy at all times. So I do my part and I think that Denny does a great job of doing his part and I think that players are responding to his challenge. So I feel that I don't have to do as much as I had to do last year.

Q: Is Pat Tillman's memory galvanizing the team at all?

Smith: In a lot of ways, yes. I think players have a lot of respect for Pat Tillman and what he stood for and what he did and what he sacrificed. I think players feel that same way about a lot of our men and women in the armed forces. With that in mind, I don't look at this as players saying, ‘We're going to go out and win and do something special for Pat.' I think we're trying to win games and the more we win, in essence, will be in honor of him.

Q: What are your impressions of the 49ers' defense?

Smith: Well, obviously they have some injuries over there. But they have players that are flying around to the ball. They have Julius Peppers (sic) over there doing his thing as always. They have Bryant Young in the middle doing his thing. They have some solid linebackers that run around and make plays. They do a lot of things on the defensive front that confuse the offense. They do a lot of stunting with the ‘backers. That presents a tough challenge to the offense in terms of the running game and the passing game. They are playing; they just haven't received the results.

Q: How do you think Bryant Young is playing?

Smith: Trust me; we talked about him this morning in our meeting. In order for us to be talking about him, man, he must be doing his thing. I feel like he hasn't lost much at all, if anything. It's not all about the individual player. Sometimes it's about the supporting cast around him. I mean, his supporting cast around him now is a little different than it was when he was back in the day. So, it's just a matter of making adjustments. The system may be a little different than he is used to. So, for him he's doing what they are asking of him.

Q: Do you think that maybe the Niners are asking Young to do too much?

Smith: I don't know. You have to ask them that question. From what I'm seeing on tape he's doing what he has to do. He's playing football. We're talking about him at the end of the day.


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