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Smith discusses Cowboys, playoffs, Hall of Fame

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Posted Jan. 15, 2011 @ 1:59 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

Emmitt Smith knows a thing or two about the playoffs. The former Cowboys running back scored 19 touchdowns in 17 career postseason games, helping Dallas win three Super Bowls in the process. He's also the NFL's all-time leading rusher and, in 2010, was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Pro Football Weekly caught up with Smith to hear his thoughts on the Cowboys, the playoffs, Hall of Fame running backs and a tasty promotion he's a part of.

PFW: What do you think of a former teammate of yours, Jason Garrett, becoming the head coach of the Cowboys?

Smith: I believe Jason's going to do a good job. When you watch how he managed the team activities in the last five games of the season, I thought he did an excellent job in terms of putting in a system that would afford the players to actually buy into something. He got a taste of really what that could be like. You could see the difference in the way the Cowboys ran the football, the way that penalties kind of came down a little bit. I think he implemented some things that Jimmy Johnson used to have with us, in terms of work ethic. Go out there on Wednesday in full gear, practice on Thursdays in shorts and shoulder pads, and you're going to hit a little bit. So I think he's starting to instill some of the toughness that I believe the Cowboys were missing.

PFW: How long will it be until Dallas returns to the playoffs?

Smith: When you have a talented team like that and you can get them physically fit from a football standpoint and establish a running game, which is all about physicality anyways, you have to start preparing for that during practice. If you don't do it in practice, you cannot expect them to turn it on in the game, and I think that's what he was doing. I don't think it will take long at all, because I think the Cowboys still have great talent out there on the football field. Protecting the football and minimizing mistakes is extremely important, but what's most important is physically being ready to exercise your strength when you have it and when you need to.

PFW: Moving on to this year's playoffs, what are you most excited about watching this weekend?

Smith: I'm looking to see whether or not the teams that have had the bye week, how well they are focused, how fresh they will look, but most importantly, whether they will protect the football or whether or not they will execute at a high level. You talk about protecting the football, and I think turnovers could be extremely key and very important in these games, especially for the teams who have had a bye week.

PFW: Do you have a Super Bowl pick?

Smith: I like the Patriots, because them and Atlanta have shown a lot of consistency throughout the whole, entire season. Both of these teams have been very consistent and smooth-sailing and not having too many highs and too many lows throughout the whole entire season. That's what I like about watching the game: You get a chance to analyze teams and see how well they mature and how fast they grow throughout the course of the season. Every season is different. The one thing that scares me for the Atlanta Falcons is the Green Bay Packers. Because as of late, they've established that they can run the football and run the football pretty effectively. And with (James Starks) running the rock, I feel more confident in Green Bay's opportunity to go deeper into the playoffs than I did before.

PFW: Can you describe your relationship with Hershey's and what you're doing?

Smith: Yeah, I'm glad you asked. Hershey's and the Pro Football Hall of Fame has joined forces with myself to try and bring a unique opportunity to fans around the country. And that opportunity is by going to hersheys.com/halloffame, you can get the information to register for the contest, and if you are the lucky winner, the grand prize winner will have an opportunity to come to the Hall of Fame this year, and I will be their host. And we will have a chance to go to all of the Hall of Fame activities: parade rides, enshrinement parties, enshrinement dinners, the game itself and really see what it's like to be behind the scenes. But also, with Hershey's, these individuals have the chance to get a bust, made for them in their image and their likeness, just like the ones we (Hall of Fame enshrinees) have, but it's all made out of chocolate.

PFW: Speaking of the Hall of Fame, there are three first-year running backs up for enshrinement this year — Jerome Bettis, Curtis Martin and Marshall Faulk. As a running back, what do you think of their chances of joining you in Canton?

Smith: They all should be in the Hall of Fame. If you look at all the running backs that are in the Hall of Fame, you will see something very consistent: Every last one has over 10,000 yards except for a few guys, like a Gale Sayers, or guys who retired early because of certain things. So, with that said, quite naturally, you would expect those three guys to be in the Hall of Fame. Now whether or not they all get in this particular round, I don't know.

PFW: Another person up for election is a former teammate of yours, DE Charles Haley. What would it mean to you for him to be voted in?

Smith:  It would mean a lot, because Charles Haley was so instrumental in terms of bringing not only a certain kind of attitude but a work ethic and a style of play to our defense where it freed up other players — like Leon Lett, Russell Maryland, Chad Hennings, Tony Tolbert — to help them make plays, and Charles did what he needed to do from a defensive standpoint. So he's a guy who's well-deserving of (the Hall of Fame). Plus, the guy has five Super Bowl rings.

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