Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Emmitt says he'd be on Cowboys if Parcells wanted him


IRVING, Texas -- Emmitt Smith said Wednesday he would still be a member of the Dallas Cowboys if Bill Parcells had wanted him.

"I think he got what he wanted," Smith said in a conference call with local reporters. "And he's doing well with what he had. So, obviously, the decision was good for him."

The Cowboys are 2-1, holding a winning record for the first time since December 1999, heading into a game Sunday at home against Smith and the Arizona Cardinals (1-3).

Smith left the Cowboys in late February in what both said was a mutual decision between the leading rusher in NFL history and team owner Jerry Jones.

Jones said then, and reiterated this week, that Parcells stayed out of the process. It was something they settled on the first time they spoke about Parcells taking the job. Parcells and Smith did not get together during the eight weeks they overlapped in the organization.

While Parcells' silence on the matter could have been interpreted as a lack of interest, he said it shouldn't be read into one way or another.

"I didn't want to get in the middle of that and have an opinion on something I didn't know much about," Parcells said Wednesday, several hours before Smith's call. "I didn't know the ramifications of anything in terms of the salary cap or anything else."

At the news conference announcing his release, Smith said he didn't want to be a distraction. He said that if he stayed, his role would be an ongoing source of controversy.

"I didn't want to put the team through that," he said then. "I didn't want to put myself through it. There's a clean slate now."

Jones said something similar Tuesday, saying that Smith's stature might have become an issue.

"I think our staff would've been more compromised than Emmitt," he said.

On the conference call Wednesday, Smith was asked whether he felt the Cowboys let him go because they didn't want him. He asked for specifics about who didn't want him. Told Parcells, he calmly said, "Yeah," without elaborating.

Asked how that made him feel, he said, "It is what it is."

Smith spent 13 seasons in Dallas, winning four rushing titles, helping the Cowboys win three Super Bowls and being named the MVP of one. His crowning moment came last season when he passed Walter Payton to become the NFL's career rushing leader.

During training camp, he was quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying that last season he "felt like a diamond surrounded by trash."

This week, teammates who earlier said it didn't bother them admit they'll be using that as motivation on Sunday. For the first time, they also said this week that Smith was part of the problem last season.

"I think sometimes it felt as though the season was based on him getting his rushing record rather than us having a successful winning percentage," defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said. "It was a distraction."

And now?

"We have better things to focus on as a team," Ekuban said, "and that's winning games."