JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 2 -- Running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader, plans to announce his retirement here Thursday.
Smith, who turns 36 in May, apparently plans to sign with the Dallas Cowboys to retire as a member of the team with which he spent 13 seasons and won three Super Bowls before finishing his career with two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He reportedly could join an investment group headed by Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler that is attempting to purchase the Minnesota Vikings from Red McCombs.
Smith rushed for 18,355 yards in his 15 seasons. He had 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons, won four league rushing titles and won a Super Bowl most valuable player award and a regular season MVP. He is virtually certain to be a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after the required five-year wait.
"He has been so consistent," said New York Jets tailback Curtis Martin, who takes over as the active rushing leader with Smith's retirement. "Every running back that is considered great is because of consistency. Part of it is physical, but more of it is mental. You have to have a mentality of rising above the pain. It's not that you're so durable. It's that you're able to deal with the pain. I'm quite sure there were times that he was injured, but I credit his consistency to his ability to deal with that."
Smith initially denied reports Tuesday that he would retire this week. But several NFL sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because there had been no official announcement, confirmed Wednesday that a news conference was planned for Thursday afternoon. Smith's two-year contract with the Cardinals was expiring, and he was to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He ran for 937 yards for Arizona this season.