ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- Fred Smoot's ``gut feeling'' no longer has him optimistic about returning to the Washington Redskins next year.
``I want to be here bad,'' Smoot said Thursday. ``It's not about me wanting to be here. It's about them wanting me to be here.''
Smoot's contract expires at the end of the season. He recently had expressed optimism that he would stay with the Redskins, with ongoing negotiations resulting in a new deal possibly before the final game this weekend.
Asked Thursday if he was still optimistic, Smoot said, ``I can't say that I am.''
``Just say a gut feeling,'' he added.
Coach Joe Gibbs said he wants Smoot to return, despite the impasse in talks.
``We're going to make every effort we can to sign him,'' Gibbs said. ``We got going hard on it in the middle of the year, and it kind of reached a point there where it was a stalemate, but we're going to do everything we can to try and sign him.''
Smoot could become the second high-profile cornerback to leave the Redskins in as many seasons. Perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey was traded to Denver in March after failed and often contentious contract negotiations.
Smoot and Bailey remain close friends and talk frequently. Smoot said Bailey has been giving him advice on how to handle contract negotiations and how to play the free agent market if no deal is reached.
``It's never the player,'' Smoot said. ``It's all about the front office -- and do they want me here. Champ helped me a lot to get through this year, the mental part of it.''
If Smoot doesn't return, his last game with the Redskins was Sunday's 14-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in which he bruised a kidney. He said he won't play Sunday in the season finale against Minnesota.
Entering the season, there were questions as to how Smoot would play without Bailey, who could shut down half of the field. Smoot has answered the critics, with he and fellow cornerback Shawn Springs helping anchor a defense ranked second in the league. Smoot has three interceptions, has forced two fumbles and was selected as a second alternate to the Pro Bowl.
Smoot is in the final days of a modest four-year, $2.6 million contract he signed as a second-round draft pick from Mississippi State in 2001. His agent, James Cook, did not return a call seeking comment.
Smoot is also the team's most vocal presence in the locker room. His remarks Thursday came as he was receiving the team's B.J. Blanchard Good Guy Award for his cooperation and candor with the media, through times both good and bad.
``That's something Deion (Sanders) told me: Don't only talk to them when the sun's shining,'' Smoot said. ``When the sun ain't on you, they can bury you, too, so you've got to be on an even keel. That's what I try to do.''<