HUMPHREY-SMITH SWAP IS LIKE TRADING CHICKEN POX FOR MEASLES

Published: Sunday, May 24 1992 12:00 a.m. MDT

Trading Bobby Humphrey for Sammie Smith would appear to be like trading the chicken pox for the measles.

They're both likely to make you ill for a while, and the best you can hope for is to avoid long-term side effects.Humphrey was a holdout for the Denver Broncos last year and was essentially AWOL all season. Smith lost both the football and his starting job for the Miami Dolphins last season.

Both are consigned to the Damaged Goods department of the NFL's offseason trade mart, like two mismatched house slippers on the clearance table of a discount store. Miami apparently has been dangling Smith and a couple of future draft picks on its live-bait trading line in hopes of acquiring Humphrey.

On the face of it, a Humphrey-for-Smith deal would appear to be the moral equivalent of the landmark Shawn Knight-for-Ted Gregory deal, which served as a cleansing purge of a pair of first-round busts.

But what's wrong with this picture?

Humphrey led Denver in rushing his first two seasons, gaining 1, 151 and 1,202 yards.

Smith has rushed for 659, 831 and 297 yards in his three NFL seasons. On Miami's preseason depth chart, he is listed as the backup to Mark Higgs.

Humphrey's 97-day holdout seemed to reduce his chances of ever playing for Denver again to the same likelihood Dan Quayle would do a guest spot on "Murphy Brown."

But time passes and despite what Gaston Green showed last season, Denver can scarcely afford to shed a proven 1,000-yard Pro Bowl running back.

Humphrey's chief sins were those of vanity and stubbornness.

Smith's mistakes involved the more grievous behavior of leaving the Wilson F1010, Official Game Ball of the NFL, lying on the turf of various stadiums after it had been entrusted to his care.

He fumbled eight times his rookie season and lost the ball three times near the goal line last year for the Dolphins.

One of his fumbles came on a play that would have tied the score against Kansas City but was recovered and returned 100 yards for a Chiefs touchdown.

Another was even worse: He lost the ball on a first-and-goal dive play at the 1-yard line late in a game with Houston. The Oilers' Cris Dishman recovered it to clinch a 17-13 victory.

Dan Reeves hates fumbles as much as he hated Clemson when he was playing for South Carolina.

Unless some team is willing to offer a starting left tackle or something of similar value and need, let's postpone the trade talk.

Let's all be grownups here.

Bring Humphrey to camp and see what he's willing to contribute. His value scarcely could be tarnished any more than it is.

And speaking of holdouts, Smith missed the first game of his rookie season when he was the NFL's last first-round draft choice to sign.

A few days before coming to terms, he balked when the Dolphins wouldn't pay his way to Miami to negotiate.

This trade makes no sense for Denver.

Can't we just drop it?

Sorry, Sammie, just a Freudian slip.

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