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Fred Smoot on George Michael

There aren't too many media members in town whose death would be cause for pre-practice team meetings and 10 interviews in Ashburn, but George Michael--as I've mentioned--had a pretty unique relationship with the franchise.

Which is why there was no shortage of players willing to talk about Michael on Thursday afternoon. Fred Smoot has mostly maintained a media silence for weeks and weeks, but he agreed to address the media about Michael's death on Thursday.

"I was very close to George," Smoot said. "He was damn near the boss of the Redskins in my corner. He was just one of them guys I loved to have around Redskins Park, and he's really gonna be missed. It hurts me, and I hope I'll be able to go to the service."

I asked about the nature of their relationship; "C'mon man, can you imagine George Michael and me having a conversation?" Smoot joked. "Who get to do the talking? Hey, he out-talked me, but he taught me a lot, especially about how to treat the media, making the media your friend, just putting yourself in position to do stuff after football, so he was a very good teacher to me, and I think I turned out all right when it came to media. He made it his point to talk to me about it when I first got here as a rookie. He was like, 'You're a loudmouth, I'm gonna teach you how to use your loudmouth to help you.' So he always got on me, every week, about something else, teaching me how to go about doing it."

Other players had less personal relationships. Marcus Mason was on Michael's high school all-star team. Edwin Williams watched him on TV; "it was kind of an honor to get to meet him," Williams said. "I remember watching him [talk about] the Redskins. I didn't know how big he was. Zorn told me he was real big, he was like ESPN. I didn't remember those days."

Jason Campbell was introduced to Michael by Doug Williams. Rock Cartwright joked about how Michael would tell him he was out of shape. Antwaan Randle El talked about watching Michael "as a young boy and then actually meeting him as a man." Santana Moss knew that Michael had cancer, and said he thought to himself, 'That's the way to handle a situation like that, just be yourself and enjoy life.' " And Kedric Golston talked about what he learned from Michael's training camp seminars on handling the media.

"He was just real honest," Golston said. "Just saying the keys to how to handle the media, introduce yourself person to person, just look people in the eye, treat people how you want to be treated. That goes a long way in the medium. And whether it's right wrong or indifferent, y'all are our voice to the fans. And he just wanted to relay that even though you might not like a person, they're dictating who you are to the fan."

Others described their relationship as more like friends than teacher and pupil.

"I had a great relationship with the man," Mike Sellers said. "We liked to give each other [grief], talk trash to each other, just play around, and we just developed a relationship along the road. He's always looked out for me in certain aspects....We just enjoyed jaw jacking with each other."

And what was he like?

"He did his job and he did it very well," Sellers said. "You can't get sensitive around him, you can't, because if he finds out you're sensitive, he'll keep messing with you."

"Very very loud," Smoot added. "Very clear, very well-spoken. ... We [were] talking not too long ago when he was up here, he had came to see Dan about two months ago, three months ago, and we were just talking about the stuff that was going on, just chopping it up. I can't believe he's gone."

More links

Scott Van Pelt talks about how Michael was his inspiration. (Sports by Brooks)

Jamie Mottram writes about late nights with Michael. (Mister Irrelevant)

Chris Chase remembers Michael's relationship with the Redskins. (Player Hater's Ball)

Michael to Ted Leonsis: "Let me tell you how it works in this town: you talk to me first -- then later it is ok to talk to Tony (Kornheiser) over there. As long as you play by the rules, things will work out fine. By the way, nice tie". (Caps Insider)

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 24, 2009; 4:01 PM ET
Categories:  Media , Redskins  
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