Kent Somers
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 17, 2004 12:00 AM

Running back Emmitt Smith appears to be leaning toward playing next year, provided there is an opportunity, but the chances of Smith playing for Arizona appear unlikely.

Smith's contract with the Cardinals expires after this season but he doesn't sound like a guy who is ready to retire.

"I don't have no problem playing next year," Smith, 35, said Thursday in his weekly interview session with reporters. "I've enjoyed my stay here with Denny (Green). He's given me an opportunity to get back on the football field and showcase my talent, whereas earlier this year there was a chance I was going to be a backup." advertisement

Coach Dennis Green declined to address the issue of Smith's future on Thursday.

"I haven't thought about anything but the Rams right now," he said, referring to Sunday's game. "We have three games to go and I'm focused on the first game."

Smith has gained 732 yards on 202 carries this season, a 3.6-yard average, and has rushed for nine touchdowns.

He came to Arizona in 2003, signing a two-year, $7.5 million deal, with the goal of helping the team make the playoffs, but that hasn't happened. The Cardinals went 4-12 last year and are 4-9 now.

"I'm not totally happy with the way I performed, in terms of the success of the team and all," Smith said. "That's really what's important, outside my individual performance.

"If the opportunity comes and presents itself to come back, I would seriously look at that and take it into consideration. But if the opportunity does not come, then I feel like I have failed my mission."

Smith also said comments he made last Sunday about coaching were misinterpreted.

After the 31-28 loss to San Francisco, Smith said that players sometimes have to overcome coaching. What he meant, he said, is that players occasionally have to make last-second adjustments on the field.

That might mean doing something you're not necessarily coached to do, he said, but that's not an indictment of Green and his staff.

"I feel like the comment was definitely taken towards a negative," Smith said. "I didn't mean it toward Denny or any of the coaching staff that we have. But you guys (reporters) in such a rare form right now, so busy wanting to jump on somebody's head, you're willing to take it and put it in your article and write it in the way that you mean it."

Green said the remark didn't bother him, but on Monday he reminded players to be careful about what they say to reporters.

"A lot of times you say a lot and only a certain amount gets written," Green said. "I didn't pay that much attention to it, to be honest with you."