Bringing All-Stars into the mix on Dancing with the Stars has not only greatly upped the ante for this season's Mirrorball Trophy but it has also brought a different dynamic, as former partners are now competing against one another.
Professional dancer Cheryl Burke, who is paired with former football player Emmitt Smith for the second time this season, discussed what it is like to now compete against her former partners Drew Lachey and Gilles Marini on Dancing's first All-Stars season.
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"On the show, it was a little awkward in the beginning before we all got together but...I'm rooting for them, really," she said. "To see Drew (Lachey) in the bottom two last week was heartbreaking for me because he's such a great guy and he's working so hard...So, it is awkward but at the same time, we're all here together. We're all in the same boat."
Lachey and Burke won Dancing's second season together, which was her first season on the show, and the 98 Degrees singer was verbally disappointed with being in the bottom two last week.
Burke won the succeeding season with Smith, which puts her in a small group of dancers with the Hough siblings who have won back-to-back seasons; however, she has yet to win another trophy in the past 12 seasons despite finishing in third or higher four times.
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She and Smith are off to a good start so far in the competition, bringing in the first week's highest score of 24.5. Nonetheless, the two aren't getting overly excited about being at the top of the pack, and are trying to maintain perspective.
"As we [say] in football, that was Tuesday. Today is Thursday. That's behind us," said Smith, who was inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2010. "What's in front of us is the quickstep."
The swift-footed Smith revealed that despite his and Burke's forward-looking attitude, the transit from their training studio in Dallas and Dancing's Hollywood studio has taken a toll on them physically.
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The NFL's all-time leading rusher also discussed the end of the referee lockout, which created pandemonium in the league due to the replacement refs who filled in for the locked-out officials.
"It makes me feel good for the game itself," he said. "At least the players know that they have officials that...understand the game [and] understand how it should be called...Even though they will continue to make some mistakes, at least...you have some folks that understand the culture itself...so we don't have those calls that we saw on Monday night, which were absolutely awful."
Watch Smith and Burke take on the quickstep tonight on Dancing with the Stars at 8 p.m. on ABC.