Paul Smith, an anomaly in Coach Jack Pardee's youth movement, worked in place of the injured Dave Butz at left defensive tackle yesterday as the Redskins resumed practice for Monday night's game against the New York Giants.
The Redskins list Butz and tight end Jean Fugett, each with a knee injury, as questionable for the nationally televised game here.Butz spent yesterday's practice in the training room while Fugett jogged around Redskin Park.
Smith played 11 seasons with the Denver Broncos, including Pro Bowl appearances in 1972-73. His coach during those golden years with the Broncos was Richard (Doc) Urich, the current Redskin defensive coordinator. That connection is the main reason the 34-year-old Smith is a Redskin today.
"The last two to three years were pretty rough in Denver," Smith said after yesterday's practice. "They moved me out of position. I played defensive end the last three years. I got in touch with Doc Urich and left the Boncos in a situation in which I really didn't feel I was wanted anymore."
Why was that?
"I was taken off the roster after the 13th game last season and they played musical chairs for a couple of weeks. They took me off again. I just decided I'd make my own deal after the season's over. I still felt I could play. Baltimore contacted me and they wanted me to come and finish the season because they had injuries in their defensive line.
"I said, 'No, I'd talk to Doc after the season.' And I did. One thing I had my doubts about coming here was what people were talking about all over -- Coach Pardee's youth movement. But I'm one to believe if a guy can still play ball effectively after 12 or 13 years, if he can do the job effectively, then in the coach's eye he will still be there. You're as old as you feel."
Said Pardee, "He's a football player. He's getting up in age a little but he knows how to play. He's awfully valuable to us right now. He's not going to win a beauty contest for speed and a lot of the things he does. You look at him and say, 'He's too old, he's had some injuries and all that.' But he knows how to play, and he plays hard. He's not dogging it."
Being valuable, in Pardee's eye, means that Smith can fill both of Butz's roles: left tackle in the standard 4-3 defense and nose guard in the run-oriented 34 defense.
The Giants have faced a 34 defense each of the first two weeks of the season, gained only 103 net yards rushing in both losses and rank 14th and last in the NFC in rushing offense. New York, however, is expected to be stronger in its offensive line this week, with two starters coming off injuries.
The Redskins rank 13th against the rush after splitting two games in which they opened huge early leads only to have the defense concentrate too much on stopping the long pass. As a result, they were burned by Houston, which won, 29-27, and Detroit, which scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns before losing, 27-24.
Smith, one of the few Redskins to have played in a Super Bowl, said he noted one problem was a lack of intensity the entire game. Pardee said he has been pleased with his team's attitude and its effort early in the first two games, "but we haven't played an entire 60 minutes yet."
Yesterday was the first day Pardee met with his team after publicly blasting Sunday's defensive effort.
Strong safety Ekn Houston, a team leader and defensive captain, and other teammates agreed that Pardee's criticism was well-deserved. Houston, in fact, put much of the blame on himself because The Force was not with the Redskins when they needed it against the Lions.
The Force, in Redskin football lingo, is the safety and cornerback turning runs inside before the opposition reaches the corner and turns upfield.
"He's supposed to blast the defense. We didn't play good football," Houston said. "It's not anything that uncorrectable. We got what we deserved. The offense had gotten us a lead like that and we're supposed to hold it. We didn't play aggressive enough.
"When I say 'we,' I mean 'I'. "When I look at the defense, I look at myself. I like to look at what I could have done Sunday and I don't feel I accomplished enough. I played the run too soft. It was not a prevent defense. It was more of a mental thing on my part. I just wasn't playing the way I was supposed to play, at what level I was supposed to play at.
"I felt that me, personally, I could have stopped half of the runs myself because they came in my direction. I was responsible for over half of them. Really, I'm the main Force man. The strong safety does most of the forcing. Anytime they run the side that I'm on, I don't blame the corner or the linebacker. I blame myself. And if you look at the films, I was responsible for most of it."
Urich, the defensive coordinator, was watching the films yesterday as he said. "It's not all his fault. Ken didn't play the type of game he's capable of, but it's a team coordination thing."
To Mark Murphy, in his first season as the starting free safety, the big-lead situation is one the defense has not mastered yet.