FRISCO, Texas –NFL players rarely spend their entire careers with one team. Even the great ones.
That's why Emmitt Smith – Pro Football Hall of Famer, Cowboys Ring of Honor member and the NFL's all-time leading rusher – can relate to what Dez Bryant is going through this week.
"Without a doubt. I didn't, and not only I didn't, but a whole lot more people didn't get a chance for their careers to finish here," Smith said at the Albertsons Companies All Star Gala at The Star, where he and his wife Pat were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for their extraordinary community service.
"It happens. You just have to be prepared to deal with whatever you have to deal with and hopefully some other team picks you up, and when you get there you've got to shine like you would shine here and just keep pushing."
With his release last Friday, Bryant became the latest in a long line of Cowboys greats to leave the organization in the middle of their careers. Smith, Dorsett, DeMarcus Ware and Larry Allen finished their playing days elsewhere.
Smith was released in February 2003 after 13 seasons with Dallas. He said he had a couple of sit-downs with Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones prior to the move, including a visit to Jones' house.
Last Friday on NFL Network, Bryant said he respected Jones' decision but felt others in the organization forced Jones' hand. The veteran receiver said he'd like to play for an unnamed NFC East rival because the Cowboys' decision was "personal" to him.
Smith said he never felt anger or revenge after his release. He signed with the Cardinals and played two more years before retiring after the 2004 season.
"I was OK with it. I was really OK with it," Smith said. "Because after 13 years here, I'd done all I could do and I understood what I was getting myself into and I understood what the dilemma was. I would've loved to have stayed here, but that wasn't the case. The cards were not dealt that way, and so I accepted the simple fact that it was time to move on and try to take my talents other places and see if I loved the game as much as I did when I was playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
"It was in the cards. It was my time to move on. And by moving on, it gave me a chance to have closure in the game itself and realize when I was in Arizona that the game has passed me by and it was time to move on and call it a day."
Perhaps Bryant will find closure, too. For now, the question is where he'll play next.