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Sunday, September 21, 2008
Bruce Smith the best ever -- just ask him


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills will put DE Bruce Smith on their Wall of Fame at halftime of today's game against the Oakland Raiders.

The 11-time Pro Bowler holds the official NFL sack record with 200 over his 19-year career. He set the Bills season sack record with 19 in 1990. He recorded double-digits in 12 of his 15 seasons with Buffalo.

Smith is the greatest non-QB No. 1 draft pick in NFL history.

And he's not afraid to declare himself the best DE that ever was. Here's the response to the first question at a pregame news conference.

"I've had a considerable amount of time to take a step back and actually think about it. Having studied the game over the last 19 years and from the outside watching in now over the last five years, the one thing that sticks out more and more like a sore thumb is what was accomplished in this 3-4 defensive scheme that I played in for so long. It's unprecedented.

These are facts that the best defensive end and pass rusher that played in this game played for the Buffalo Bills. The reason I'm saying that is the fact that by design, by the scheme a 3-4 defensive end gets double-teamed far more often than a 4-3 defensive end, and that's a fact. These are not hearsays.

The defensive ends in a 3-4 system gets double-teamed by the center-the guard, the guard-the tackle, the tackle-the tight end, the tackle-the running back. So there's so many possible combinations, and there's nowhere to hide. A 4-3 defensive end always lines up on the edge. He only gets a double team typically from slide protection or they may chip with a back."

Smith went on to describe how Reggie White thrived in Buddy Ryan's system, which was designed to eliminate double teams, and with Sean Jones and Clyde Simmons. Smith also noted how Deacon Jones played on the most dominant D-line.

Smith didn't play with another Pro Bowl lineman. He did, however, get help from such LBs as Shane Conlan, Cornelius Bennett and Darryl Talley.

"You can't double-team these two individuals consistently because there are so many other forces on that defensive line that they had to recognize and pay attention to. But in a 3-4 defensive scheme, you cannot hide.

This gives me an opportunity to explain to individuals, students of the game to educate people what has actually taken place, playing in this 3-4 defensive system. I look back upon it now and I realize why I had 11 surgeries because I was taking a beating. I certainly was. But, all in all, having played in front of these fans in this stadium, it's just an incredible feeling to come back and be put on the Wall of Fame with some of my other teammates."