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Losing record overshadows Smoot's season

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ Fred Smoot understands why there isn't a lot of league-wide excitement about the Washington Redskins' top-ranked defense.

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ Fred Smoot understands why there isn't a lot of league-wide excitement about the Washington Redskins' top-ranked defense.

We haven't won any games,'' the fourth-year cornerback said.It's kind of hard to get credit when there's not success around it. Until this thing gets rolling, you'll probably not see people get the credit they deserve.''

Some of that credit should go to Smoot himself, who is having a solid season despite a pair of shoulder injuries. When he fell to the ground making his second interception of the season Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, his shoulder was so weak that he couldn't push himself up to run in the open field.

It wasn't nothing but open grass,'' Smoot said.And I couldn't get up.''

So far, Smoot and free-agent signing Shawn Springs have shown that the Redskins can indeed live without four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who was traded to Denver in the offseason. The Redskins have allowed only five passing touchdowns all season and just 165 yards a game.

The flip side is the team's 2-5 record, a product of one of the weakest offenses in the league. Smoot has yet to experience a winning season since he was drafted in 2001, and he's now conceded that this has become yet another rebuilding year despite the return of Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.

I think people took this for, 'C'mon, we got the championship-maker back, so he's going to take us to the championship,' when he needed to get in and find out which players he wants and what he needs to do,'' Smoot said.So it is a true rebuilding year.''

Smoot was the team's unofficial jester during his first two seasons, unable to say much of anything without cracking a joke. Though his Mississippi humor is still first-rate, he's matured into a locker room leader who can speak with authority about the franchise's major problem: the constant turnover in coaching staffs.

Some other teams when they rebuild they bring in one main piece, like a coach,'' said Smoot, who has had a different defensive coordinator each of his four seasons.When we rebuild, we tear everything down. We clean house. That affected us. From my rookie year, looking around, me and LaVar (Arrington) are the only two starters on defense.

``Every new coach you bring in has got players he likes. Players need to be around each other. One summer ain't going to get you no chemistry.''

Asked how long it takes for chemistry to form, Smoot said he didn't know _ because he's yet to experience it.

``My NFL experience has been: 'How fast can I adjust to what this guy's teaching?''' Smoot said.

Smoot sounded envious of Redskins who have left to find success elsewhere. Running Stephen Davis went to a Super Bowl last season with Carolina. Smoot said he talks at least once a week with Bailey, whose Broncos are 5-3.

Smoot could follow their paths. He's a free agent at the end of the year, but for now he's says he wants to stay in Washington.

I feel like I've put in too much work here losing,'' Smoot said.I want to see them Golden Days. When they come, I want to be in the midst of it. I'm not trying to go anywhere.''

And what makes him think the ``Golden Days'' are coming? Smoot said it's because of Gibbs, who has vowed to build the team for the long haul.

We've got a great coaching staff,'' Smoot said.And they're going to be here.''

Gibbs returned the compliment.

He's somebody for me that is a real Redskin and is our kind of guy and a big part of the team,'' Gibbs said.He's got great humor, and he adds to the locker room.''

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