Tank's Pain is Smith's Gain

While there was no ligament damage to Tank Williams' knee, an ACL tear in that same knee in 2004 might have played a role in his season-ending injury over the weekend. That means Dwight Smith becomes a starter in a defense he succeeded in with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Vikings' depth at safety took a hit last weekend.

Tank Williams, signed as a free agent during the offseason, suffered a broken left kneecap during the second practice Saturday. "To my knowledge there is no ligament damage," coach Brad Childress said. "It's just unfortunate."

Williams tore the torn anterior cruciate ligament in that same knee in November 2004 while playing for the Tennessee Titans. He missed the remainder of that season but returned to start all 16 games last season for the Titans.

Williams will undergo surgery to repair the kneecap. Although there might be no ligament damage it sounds as if the previous injury played a role in this one. "Evidently it didn't heal," Childress said. "From what the trainer tells me and the doctor tells me, you usually don't see that kind of kneecap injury a year and a half out. So, something was awry or something was amiss."

The injury means veteran Dwight Smith, who was mostly taking reps with the second team, will move into the starting role opposite Darren Sharper. The Tampa-2 defense the Vikings are playing essentially makes the safeties interchangeable, meaning there is no traditional free and strong safety.

Williams suffered the injury during seven-on-seven drills. The safety ran into the end zone and as he went to plant his left foot he screamed and collapsed in pain. No other player was close to Williams. A loud pop could be heard as he fell.

"He just planted," said Willie Offord, who was the other safety in the drill. "His knee looked like it was just out of place. Nobody touched him or nothing, he was just trying to run to the football."

The Vikings certainly look smart for giving Smith a three-year, $6.5 million contract in late July after he had been released by New Orleans.

Smith is familiar with the Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings will use because defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin as Smith's position coach for four seasons in Tampa Bay.

"He's added new wrinkles," Smith said. "But it's just like I do with any defense I'm playing in. I start over from scratch. ... It's all a learning process."

Smith said he will do whatever he can to help serve as a complement to fellow safety Darren Sharper.

"We all know Darren is a playmaker and I want to be able, when I'm in the game, to free him up to do his thing, to let him play and also take care of the corners," he said. "That's just a job that I know I'm going to have to accept. I love the fact he's a playmaker and we look forward to him making plays. I'm there to try to keep guys from going the distance."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Vikings will break camp on Aug. 18, returning to their Winter Park facility in Eden Prairie.

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