Loud and Proud: Smoot Plans to Give Vikes' Secondary a Boost
Aug 23, 3:36 AM (ET) Email this Story
By DAVE CAMPBELL
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - Fred Smoot was back with Minnesota's first-string defense, considerably behind in his progress toward settling in with the Vikings' secondary.
A strained neck and then a sore knee has kept him from doing much with his new team this summer, but the loquacious cornerback certainly doesn't lack the confidence to catch up.
"I bring a leader, and I bring a playmaker," Smoot said earlier in training camp. "When it comes time for a play to be made, I'm going to be one of the guys who steps up and tries my best to make the big play. I like to take the shine in the big game."
That's what Minnesota is counting on after luring Smoot from the Washington Redskins with a six-year, $34 million contract that includes a $10.8 million signing bonus. The Vikings are eager to pair him at the vastly important position with Antoine Winfield, one of their most reliable players last season on a defense that experienced many more downs than ups.
"Right up there near the top," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "I'd compare those guys to any two in the league."
Smoot hasn't played in either of Minnesota's preseason games, but he's expected to make his debut Friday night against the San Diego Chargers. The Vikings plan to bring him along slowly, giving his legs a chance to strengthen.
"He is behind," coach Mike Tice said. "We have to be smart with him. Certainly, if there is any rubberness in his legs, we've got to get him out of there.
"That's where you can have the chance of something bad happening. We'll make sure he gets in there and gets a good sweat and some good pivots and some good breaks on the ball."
Smoot - speaking for himself and several of Minnesota's other defensive acquisitions - is hungry for much more than that.
"I've been on great defenses, but I haven't lived what I want to be in the NFL right now as far as winning a championship and just being successful year in and year out," said Smoot, who had 16 interceptions while starting 58 of a possible 64 games over four seasons with the Redskins. "And I think those guys feel the same.
"You got a guy like Pat Williams that, in his own right, wants to let people know what Pat Williams can do. You got people like Napoleon Harris who wants to let the whole world know that, yes, he's worth the Randy Moss trade. You got Darren Sharper. Do I even have to say why he's motivated? All the stuff he did with Green Bay, and now all of a sudden he's a Viking."
The Vikings' season hinges largely on the ability of Smoot, Williams, Harris and Sharper to mesh with Cottrell and their new teammates. Smoot believes some of his bravado will help the process.
"I think it tends to rub off on other people," he said. "Basically when they see me walking before I'm talking, it really brings a comfort zone to everybody."