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Friday, January 15, 2010

Smith not retained to run offense

After two seasons with the Washington Redskins, offensive coordinator Sherman Smith will be looking for work again.

Coach Mike Shanahan on Wednesday informed Smith he would not be retained, ending Smith's brief tenure with the team. A longtime running backs coach with the Tennessee Titans, Smith came to Washington to work alongside former head coach Jim Zorn, his good friend and onetime NFL teammate, who was fired Jan. 4.

Shanahan's son, Kyle, will run the Redskins' offense next season. Shanahan strongly considered Smith to coach running backs, people with knowledge of the situation said, but Shanahan instead hired former Denver Broncos running backs coach Bobby Turner as Washington's assistant head coach-running backs. Denver initially denied permission for the Redskins to interview Turner, who with Shanahan helped the Broncos win consecutive Super Bowls in the late 1990s.

"I appreciate the way Mike handled the situation," Smith said Thursday in a phone interview. "I definitely would have liked to have been part of Mike's staff because I think he's going to do a great job, but his decision shows his loyalty to [Turner]. I understand that and I respect it."

Smith, an NFL running back for eight seasons, and Zorn were rookie starters together with the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976. From 1995 through 2007, Smith coached running backs under Titans Coach Jeff Fisher.

Although Zorn called plays during the 2008 season, Smith played a major role in the offense as the Redskins went 8-8. When Zorn was stripped of play-calling duties in October in favor of consultant Sherman Lewis, Smith's role was expanded to include calling most running plays.

"I had a good experience in my role as the offensive coordinator, even though I didn't call plays until Sherman Lewis gave me that opportunity," Smith said. "As a coach, I think it definitely helped me grow to have that experience."

Smith enjoyed his time as Zorn's top offensive assistant, "but I'm really looking forward to getting back to coaching running backs," he said. "I always told my guys [in Tennessee] that we're the most important position because everything goes through us. I'm looking forward to getting back to that job."

Because he is under contract for the 2010 season, Smith does not have to rush to find work. "I'll just wait and see what happens," he said. "I want to coach because that's what I do. There's just not a lot out there right now. But I wanted to stay here not just because I want to work.

"I wanted to stay because I believe Mike and [new General Manager] Bruce Allen are going to do a great job together for the Redskins. I really think Dan Snyder has made some excellent choices in the people he picked to run the organization. The Redskins have a chance now. I believe that."

Free agent signs

Lost amid all the coaching headlines this week was news that Shanahan has signed his first free agent since taking over -- and it's a player with whom he's plenty familiar.

The Redskins quietly signed offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger, a 6-foot-3, 295-pounder who can play both guard and center. Lichtensteiger will be entering his third season in the league, having played his rookie year under Shanahan in Denver.

A product of Bowling Green, Lichtensteiger was taken by Shanahan in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. He was expected to play both center and guard, but lasted just one season there. Lichtensteiger was cut by the Broncos and new head coach Josh McDaniels following Denver's 2009 training camp. He most recently played for Minnesota, who released him Sept. 30.

Lichtensteiger was active for all 16 games during his rookie season in Denver but saw no action last season. . . .

Defensive end Andre Carter underwent surgery Thursday to repair his torn biceps muscle. Carter, who played through the injury, said in a text message that the procedure went "well."

-- Jason Reid and Rick Maese


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