Offord Anticipated Dwight Smith Signing

Vikings safety Willie Offord said he figured the team would sign Dwight Smith, and Offord gave his insight into how the move will affect him, his rehabilitation and his focus. Plus, get morning notes from the opening day of camp.

Willie Offord had less than three games to try and make an impression last season before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, and he acknowledged Friday in Mankato that his injury might have had something to do with the Vikings signing free agent safety Dwight Smith earlier this week.

Offord said his knee is doing well, but he acknowledged the business side of things and said he understood the Vikings wanting to protect themselves with his comeback and Tank Williams' comeback from a similar injury in 2004.

"I'm pretty sure everybody's expectation going into the week was that me and Tank would be competing for that job. I'm pretty sure that's all changed now."

The Vikings signed Smith this week, and his familiarity with defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin's Tampa-2 scheme from their time together as safety and secondary coach is expected to give Smith the upper hand on the starting job at free safety.

"My first reaction was that this is a business," Offord said of the Smith signing. "I kind of figured once he was going to get released from New Orleans that they'd probably bring him in because of the relationship that he and Mike T had together. I can't really worry about that. Whenever I get in, I've just to play the way I play and continue to build and play well on special teams."

But the writing was clearly on the wall for Offord when Smith signed. Offord had been working at free safety most of the offseason after the Vikings acquired Tank Williams, but Offord has made the switch back to strong safety for training camp, saying Smith will play free safety.

That means last year's Pro Bowl free safety, Darren Sharper, who had nine interceptions, will move to strong safety, but those two positions are virtually interchangeable in Tomlin's Tampa-2 defense, Offord said.

"The two safeties in this defense are pretty similar. In (former defensive coordinator Ted) Cottrell's defense, I was in there at strong safety and I was in the box a lot. Here, the two safeties are pretty much the same – I could be playing strong one play and the next play playing free. Right now, as a base, they have me playing strong."

Offord was one of about 10 selected veterans to practice at training camp with the rookies on Friday, most of those veterans being players coming back from injuries who didn't see much practice time during minicamps.

For Offord, his rehabilitation process is going well so far, but it might have cost him playing time.

"I've just got to get my knee used to making contact like that again," he said. "We're just going into it wide open. I'm not going to do anything special and hit the Popsicle or anything like that. I'm just going to go at it. I'm more anxious to get it done just to tell myself I can do it again."

But as a player who started last year as the special teams captain before his season-ending knee injury on Sept. 25, he said he isn't concerned with making the team. His special teams prowess has to be a contributing factor in his confidence.

"Special teams has always been on the radar. Even if I was a starter, I would have still tried to play three special teams because I like special teams," he said.


  • Offord on the most important aspects of the Tampa-2 defense: "As a secondary, the corners have to get good jams on the receivers, No. 1. Besides that, hustle, play hard and keep everything in front."

  • For all the media and fan uproar about the initial perception that these first training camp practices wouldn't be open to the fans, very few followers showed up for the morning practice session in shorts after the Vikings clarified that fans would be welcome. The Vikings opened up the bleachers to fans, but fewer than 100 people were in attendance to watch the slow-paced practice that focused more on instruction and review sessions.

  • The offense drew the short straw this morning, wearing purple jerseys for 90-degree heat with plenty of humidity. Gone from camp are the large umbrellas protruding from golf carts to provide shade for the players. The misting fans also were nowhere to be seen.

  • The Vikings practice this afternoon from 3:10 to 4:15 p.m.

  • The Vikings and Clear Channel announced today that 100.3 KTLK-FM will become the new radio home of the Vikings on the FM dial starting this season.

  • Viking Update Top Stories