Sharper Enjoying The Smoot-CJ Byplay

Safety Darren Sharper considers himself a pretty good trash talker, and he's ready to assist Fred Smoot as he wages a verbal assault against Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, who started things off with a little smack for Smoot on Monday. The whole thing has been great entertainment for Sharper.

When he was a member of the Green Bay Packers, Darren Sharper was one of the go-to guys. His teammates relied on him for being a leader on defense and supplying game-changing turnovers. The media relied on him for his analysis of the games.

And now Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot can rely on Sharper when it comes to coverage of NFL receivers and assisting him in talking smack.

Smoot and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson have engaged in an all-out battle of the brash.

"Him and Smoot have something going back to the Senior Bowl when they were coming out of college, and they were kind of going at each other a little bit. It will be good, though," Sharper said with a smile. "I told Freddie I'm going to be instigating the whole time during the game, mostly on Fred's side, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, lock him down, Fred.' I probably won't have to (instigate) too much, because those guys will be talking the whole game.

"I might get some laughs out of it and use some of that for my stuff later on when I start talking a little bit. I'm definitely going to be part of it."

Sharper and Smoot were both reveling in the attention Wednesday at Winter Park. For Smoot, the "grip and grin" isn't a political handshake and photo opportunity, it's a gripping of the microphone and audio pleasureland.

As for Sharper, he's entertained by the whole episode, but he realizes he isn't going to be keeping pace with the champion pacesetters at smack talk, Smoot and Johnson.

"When I saw Fred, I said there was no way I was even going to compare to him. I tried early on, got into some battles with him going back and forth, debating and things like that, but I couldn't win," Sharper said. "The loudness of the voice and the speed at which he talks, talking over people, I couldn't compete with that. I just said I'd have to give that battle up. He'll have the crown of most talkative defensive player, team player, for the Vikings. He can have that title."

The whole Johnson-Smoot incident started Monday with Johnson in Cincinnati.

Smoot had an interception Sunday in his first game as a Viking, but Johnson isn't ready to him Smoot his propers.

"How good is he? He's a good talker," Johnson said of Smoot. "He's a real good talker. He's a solid corner. As a matter of fact, can we send Fred a message? Smoot, let's go. That's it. That's the message for this week."

What followed Wednesday was a lot of talk in the Vikings locker room, and Sharper didn't mind the exchange at all.

"That's going to give us the energy to play better," Sharper said. "You start yapping and running your mouth, you're going to start seeing a different side of the guys on defense."

Sharper said Smoot's talking also gives the team energy.

"It's entertaining. It allowed me to get through training camp. There are some days where it makes you laugh and it gets you through practice and gets you through the season," Sharper said. "A lot of people just look at him when he's talking and say, ‘OK, he's just running his mouth,' but it's energy definitely for the team when he does that."

This week, though, Smoot has a real challenge in the Yap Department, and he isn't backing down to Johnson. After talking with the Minnesota media, Smoot went on NFL Network and talked some more. Then he went out to practice and talked some more.

It's a media dream, really, and this week is better for fodder than most would have imagined.

"They got it started early in the week with the yapping and it will be interesting to see once Sunday comes how much talking will be going on. I know one thing that's going to happen for sure: We're not going to let the concentration level go down when we're yapping. Fred's a guy that actually feeds off that. I don't know if Chad knows what he's in store for, because Fred's a guy that can back up what he says."

Sharper has never played against Johnson, but he said there is a method for some athletes talking. It's not all just useless trash talk, as some might believe. While players like Sharper might find it entertaining and an aide to get through a physically and mentally exhausting season, even the world's best athletes can find a larger purpose in the engagement.

"It is strategy. It goes back to those guys like Michael Jordan, who will say little things to get in your head or see if they can't do some things psychologically to mess with you, with your play," Sharper said. "But at the same it's allowing them to raise their level of play up. Some guys need that, need to talk, and it gets them going. Some guys do it to mess with the guys they're going against.

"As long as you stay within the lines, it's cool. But I've heard of him (Johnson) sending things in the mail to the other team. We're going to check our mail, and hopefully we don't get anything because if we do it's not going to be good. You never let anyone do that to you."


Besides being a premier trash talker, Johnson is also a pretty good wide receiver, and the Vikings need to be as concerned with his legs.

Johnson has gone over 1,000 yards receiving in each of his last three seasons in Cincinnati, averaging 14.6 yards per catch in his four-year career.

"He's definitely in the upper echelon of receivers in the NFL because he does so much," Sharper said. "He has the ability to run after the catch. He can stretch the field and get downfield and make the plays with the ball in the air. He runs excellent routes."

This will be the Vikings' first game facing him. Last week, Johnson had nine catches for 91 yards against Cleveland.


  • Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie (foot), guard/center Anthony Herrera (lower leg) and middle linebacker Sam Cowart (calf) were all listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report. Herrera was practicing Wednesday on a nearly full-time basis, but Cowart and McKinnie were not able to practice. Head coach Mike Tice said he thinks McKinnie and Cowart "should be able to do some things" Thursday. Cowart had 13 tackles and a forced fumble against Cincinnati on Sept. 9, 2004, when Cowart was a member of the New York Jets.

  • The Bengals listed WR T.J. Houshmandzeh (shoulder) and CB Troy James (toe) as probable.

  • Adam Goldberg practiced in McKinnie's left tackle spot, leaving Marcus Johnson as the starter at right guard. The Vikings' interior offensive line struggled against Tampa Bay, but Tice called the offensive line a "work in progress" and didn't anticipate any personnel changes against Cincinnati.

  • Tice said he was pleased with his defense and special teams after reviewing the film of the Tampa Bay game three times, but he was hoping to see more from his kickoff return team.

  • Mewelde Moore and Michael Bennett were both taking carries with the first-team offense. Bennett rushed six times for minus-1 yard against Tampa Bay while Moore didn't see any action at running back. Moore said he feels great, much better than last week. He has been recovering from an ankle injury.

  • The Vikings continue to employ officials for their practices. Minnesota had nine penalties for 70 yards while Tampa Bay had 13 penalties for 99 yards, but the Vikings had two touchdowns called back on penalties.

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