Broncos' Smith watches from sideline, his future uncertain

DENVER -- Rod Smith, who caught more catches for more yards
and touchdowns than any undrafted player in NFL history, stood on
the sideline Sunday, looked up at the stands and took it all in,
realizing this might be his last game with the Denver Broncos.

The 37-year-old co-captain who missed the whole season revealed
48 hours earlier that his surgically repaired left hip hurts more
than ever and that a specialist in Los Angeles will resurface or
replace the joint in January.

If he needs an artificial hip, his playing days are done.

He took time to reminisce on his three Pro Bowls and two Super
Bowl wins, knowing this could be it.

"I'm been thinking about that the last five years because in
this business you never know when it's going to end. Because one
day you're going to wake up and you're going to be right. This
could be the last one. If it is, you know, I'm glad our guys played
the way they did. I'm really pleased,'' Smith said after Denver's
22-19 win over Minnesota.

Smith, the franchise leader in receptions and touchdowns after
joining the team's practice squad in 1994 as an undrafted free
agent out of Missouri Southern, said he has no regrets.

"I couldn't ask for anything else,'' he said. "I started in
this business at the very bottom. I didn't cut the grass, but I did
everything else. I was on the practice squad. A lot of people look
at you like you're not a professional athlete when you're on the
practice squad. But you know what? I have cleats on my feet every
day. That's how I make my living. I'm going to go out there and
give them everything that I can. And I did that.''

He set franchise records for career receptions (849), receiving
yards (11,389), touchdown catches (68) and 100-yard games (31).

"Somebody told me a long time ago, 'You play until they run you
out of this business or you can't do it anymore,' '' Smith said.
"For me, if I can't play again, it's because I physically can't do
it. And I can be OK with that. As far as the numbers and yards and
all those things, they're OK. But I'm more proud of the wins, the
big wins I've been a part of and helping this franchise especially
go over the top with the two Super Bowls.''

If this is the end, Smith said he's glad to pass the torch to
Brandon Marshall, who had 102 catches for 1,325 yards and seven
touchdowns this season, becoming just the third second-year pro to
top 100 receptions.

"One year I played with him, so I got to show him. And then I
stayed in his ear about little things and I could see him
growing,'' Smith said. "It feels good to see him go out and do the
things he's done. He's one of those guys, we've talked about him
breaking my records. And I tried to put them up there where he
couldn't but at the same time I'll be very happy for him if he

Marshall isn't eager to see someone else in Smith's locker
anytime soon.

"He's a professional's professional off the field and on the
field,'' said Marshall, who credits Smith with his breakout season
this year.

"If it wasn't for him, half those catches I wouldn't have, half
of those yards I probably wouldn't have picked up,'' Marshall said.
"All I can do is pick his brain, but you know what, he lives right
around the corner. All I'm going to do is I'm just going to bug
him. I'm going to go knock on his door. Even if it's just to watch
TV, I'm going to continue to pick his brain.

"Rod's the type of guy he doesn't mind. When I first got
drafted, he wasn't threatened. He said, 'You know, I want you to
take my position, and I'm going to tell you and teach you
everything I know.' And that's exactly what he's done,'' Marshall
said. "But I'm pretty sure in that big old head, there's a lot
more knowledge I can get from him.''