Wednesday, February 7
Vikings' Smith surprises with retirement

MINNEAPOLIS -- Robert Smith, who led the NFC in rushing with the Minnesota Vikings last season, is retiring after a career marked by a series of injuries.

Robert Smith
Robert Smith retires as Minnesota's all-time leading rusher.
His agent, Neil Cornrich, said Smith has decided to "embark on another aspect of his professional life."

"I think he has many opportunities," Cornrich said. "He hasn't narrowed the field down. Whatever he eventually chooses, I think he will excel."

Among the choices could be medical school. Smith was pre-med at Ohio State and has suggested at times that he might go that route.

Smith, who was the leading rusher in Vikings history with 6,818 yards in eight seasons, didn't give a reason for his decision, first reported Wednesday in the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. But Cornrich shrugged off the notion that Smith was tired of the battering.

"He could easily play five more years without jeopardizing his health," Cornrich said. "He just decided to go in another direction at this point."

Still, Smith, who will turn 29 next month, played only one full 16-game season during his career and had his third knee operation last week.

Cornrich said he had been optimistic that Smith, who was close with Vikings coach Dennis Green, would re-sign with the team despite some salary cap problems and the lure of the open market. He said Smith wasn't concerned about walking away from a big free-agent payday.

"He would have had unlimited financial opportunities," Cornrich said. "But this was not a financial decision."

"We will miss Robert Smith," Green said in a statement released by the Vikings. "Robert has meant so much to our program as a first class young man. Robert's leadership throughout the past eight years has been instrumental in us being a competitive football team throughout the years.

Vikings Career Rushing
Player Years Yards
Robert Smith '93-00 6,818
Chuck Foreman '73-79 5,879
Bill Brown '62-74 5,757
Ted Brown '79-86 4,546
Dave Osborn '65-75 4,320

"Robert has always been a guy that the National Football League has been able to count on as a shining example of quality character off the field and 100 percent effort on the field. Robert's decision to retire, as everyone knows, comes off his best season ever as a running back for the Minnesota Vikings. He leaves the game on top and is looking forward to his next challenge."

In a brief statement to the Plain Dealer, Smith thanked his family and friends, fans and the Vikings organization.

"I also wanted to thank my teammates and coaches for believing in me throughout my career," he said.

The Vikings took Smith in the first round of the NFL draft in 1993.

He has averaged 4.8 yards a carry during his career and ran for 1,521 yards last season as the Vikings got to the NFC championship game.

He led Minnesota in rushing six straight seasons, tying the team record held by Chuck Foreman. His career rushing yardage surpasses Foreman's 5,879 yards.

More to Smith's life than football