Smoot Eyes Big Season

Fred Smoot predicted his partner's return, all but guaranteeing it. Then Champ Bailey was dealt to Denver, ending their three-year run together. It's not what Smoot wanted to see; it's also not something he's going to mope about. That's not how Smoot behaves.

Instead, Smoot sees this as an opportunity for himself. The fourth-year corner wants to be considered a No. 1 corner and this gives him that chance. Of course, there's Shawn Springs on the other side. But the Redskins will opt, on occasion, to keep their corners on one side rather than have one of them cover the top receiver.

``Ever since I've been here it's been Champ, Darrell Green and when I was drafted Deion was here,'' Smoot said. ``I've survived a long line of talented athletes. Hopefully I can get to their level. I feel last year I took it on the pace where Fred wanted to. I felt I could have done more -- there's always room for improvement and I'm never satisfied.

``It's real weird without Champ. I feel like me and my brother finally split up and went to different schools. But him not being here lets me know how much I have to step up my game.''

Smoot improved last season after struggling some in his second year. He became much more consistent -- coaches have knocked his concentration level in the past. Some plays he excels in that area, some plays he doesn't. It's what separated him from Bailey and other top corners.

But Smoot has the perfect corner mindset, never bothered by anything. He shrugged off the trade talk surrounding him during last year's draft (the Redskins had no takers, but several teams have confirmed the Redskins offered him in a deal). And he's not about to worry over his contract situation -- Smoot is a free agent after this season.

``I feel good about my future in Washington,'' Smoot said. ``I'll let the people that are supposed to handle it, handle it. That's my agent's job. If he's slacking I'll get on him. But the only thing I have to worry about is coming out here and having fun and playing games.

``But during the season I sure hope they don't talk about it because I won't talk about it to them. I'll be focused on winning games and playing football.''

Smoot also likes having receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens in the NFC East.

``It's a better way to pick my stats up,'' Smoot said. ``Those are the guys they'll be throwing at and those are the guys I'll be checking. . . .Me and Keyshawn had a couple words last year. But I'm not worried about him. I know he'll come out intense and ready to play like I am.''

More than anything, Smoot wants this season to end differently than the past three. In other words, he wants the playoffs.

``They say you go through a lot of trials and tribulations for the bright stuff to come out later,'' Smoot said. ``That's what I've been going through, me and LaVar. We've been through a lot of talented players and good coaches, but we haven't had that one to sit here and make everything work. This is our chance.''


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