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All-time sack leader Bruce Smith says 'sky's the limit' for Von Miller

RIDGEDALE, Mo. — Bruce Smith knows a thing or two about sacking quarterbacks.

His 200 career sacks are the most of any NFL player, and while he said he doesn’t often think about the mark, he’s created the standard for pass rushers at every level.

“The mark itself, it exemplifies the training, the commitment, the sacrifices that were made,’ Smith said last week at Von Miller’s 2018 Pass Rush Summit. “The thirteen surgeries that I had, becoming a student of the game. The only time I think about is when other people bring it up in a setting like this. I don’t dwell on the past. Sometimes I get around a group of guys and we talk about it and talk about the game itself. It’s special. It’s a record. It gives other players a mark to reach for. But one day … Records are made to be broken and probably someday, somebody will.”

In the meantime, Smith is more focused on watching today’s elite players. As he put it, he’s looking for pass-rushing perfection.

And that’s why he watches a lot of Von Miller.

“I will turn a football game on — a Denver Broncos game on — just to watch him play,” Smith said. “Just to watch him. Because I want to see a great pass rusher. I want to see perfection. Those are the things that I enjoy about the game: identifying the pass rusher or defensive lineman and seeing him perfect his game.”

The next question to Smith, then, seems obvious.

Just how close can Miller get to Smith’s record?

“Von himself, man, [he’s] dynamic,” Smith responded. “I said this a year or year and a half ago, [he’s the] best pass rusher in the game. What he does to get offensive linemen out of their comfort zone and create separation so he can use his biggest asset, which is his ability to run. Nobody’s going to catch up with 4.4 [-second 40-yard dash speed]. That’s 4.4 speed we’re talking about here. Most offensive linemen are 5.0 [-second], 5.2. He’s an incredible talent. But he’s smart. He’s a student of the game, as well.

“So the sky’s the limit, as long as he stays healthy.”

Miller faces a challenging task if he wants to approach Smith’s record. Though Miller has the most sacks of any player in the NFL since 2011, he’s still 116.5 sacks away from the 200 mark.

For reference, only 21 players in the game’s history have amassed 116.5 quarterback takedowns.

If Miller wants to get close — to Smith or to second place (Reggie White, 198) or third place (Kevin Greene, 160) — he’ll need to continue to stack seasons with at least 10 sacks. In his seven-year career, Miller has accomplished that feat six times. 

Smith did it 13 times during his career.

Of course, longevity helped Smith get to the 200-sack mark. He played 19 seasons in the NFL and was sacking quarterbacks until he was 40 years old. 

If Miller found a way to play another decade in the league, he would almost certainly approach Smith’s total.

But at least right now, Smith’s record is more of an inspirational figure more than it is a mark that’s likely to be broken.

“It's an incredible record,” Miller said. “Two hundred sacks? For one, you’ve got to be successful for a long time. You’ve got to play a long time. It’s a testament to what type of player Bruce was. Guys come in and they get 20 sacks, 22 sacks, but you’ve got to do it over a long period of time to get to the 200 mark. What Bruce [did] is an inspiration to all the young pass rushers, and it [was] great to have him out there with us.”

And if Smith’s mere presence is inspiring, what does it mean to Miller to hear the Hall of Famer call him the best pass rusher in the world?

“That’s humbling,” Miller said. “I’ve been a huge fan since ‘Little Giants.’ I was probably three. So to hear that from Bruce, it’s dope. I don’t really know any other word [for it].

“I’ve played with some great ones. I’ve played with some good ones. From Elvis [Dumervil] to Shaun Phillips to DeMarcus Ware, and to spend the day with Bruce is definitely special.

“I’m going to hold [onto] this one for a long time.”

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