Safety Smith: Saints Just Didn't Like Him

Dwight Smith isn't talking about his latest citation, for indecent exposure, but the safety did address his past run-ins with the law during a training camp interview with Viking Update. Smith talked about how they might have affected his status in free agency and why he believes the Saints released him.

Vikings safety Dwight Smith doesn't seem to lack confidence, but he's fortunate that the decision-makers in the Vikings front office had confidence that he could put his legal troubles behind him when they signed him in late July.

About four hours after the conclusion of Friday night's 30-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Smith may have betrayed that confidence when he was cited for indecent exposure. According to the citation, he and a 24-year old woman were found in the stairwell in downtown Minneapolis with too much exposed.

His previous two brushes with the law involved guns.

In 2003, he pled guilty to pulling a gun on a motorist after the two were each trying to merge into the same lane and exchanged gestures at a stoplight, according to a published report. He was fined $225, place on a year's probation and ordered to take anger management courses.

In 2005, Smith was arrested for pointing a pellet gun at two men who approached his car in a McDonald's drive-through at 4 a.m. after a woman in the car recognized him. Charges from that incident were eventually dropped when Clearwater, Fla., police couldn't determine if it was Smith or another passenger in the car that pulled the pellet gun.

Smith said his prior gun charges didn't have a role in his release from New Orleans.

"I don't think they liked Dwight Smith – him – whatever that is. I just met the (new) coaches, they just got them. When I got there the first day, I was third-string. So they just didn't like that guy," Smith said in a training camp interview with Viking Update.

The Vikings knew about Smith's history, getting insight from his past teams and getting a word of confidence from Smith's former secondary coach in Tampa Bay, Mike Tomlin, now the defensive coordinator of the Vikings.

"I looked into Dwight's eyes before we signed him, and I was comfortable with what I learned from different organizations that he has been with, from Mike having spent time with him, and it's a shame that this has painted him in that light," Vikings head coach Brad Childress said.

Smith said during training camp that he doubted he would be in Minnesota except for Tomlin being here.

"A lot of people were scared off by the fact that I was released. It wasn't like my salary was huge, so they were trying to figure out, Why would New Orleans let him go after paying him $5 million the year before? I didn't know why. Mike knew me and we talked during the whole last season, he knew that I played football and that's what I do. He knew that I didn't get let go for any other reason than they just didn't like Dwight Smith.

"He tells me all the time that a lot of people can't handle my personality. I'm loud, I'm talking all the time. I'm going to have a great time. I'm competitive, and some people just don't like that around. So that happens."

Smith continued: "People felt like I had to either be badly out of shape or I've got to have some type of problem. But Mike, we talked, so he knows it's none of that. I could have went to Baltimore. I could have took a trip to Baltimore or Oakland, but when I came here and met Coach Childress, that's what sealed the deal for me."

Asked if he was intrigued or excited about the possibilities of playing with Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in Baltimore or Roy Williams in Dallas if either of those teams had signed him, Smith said: "Not more excited than playing for this guy, Mike Tomlin, here. And playing for Brad Childress … I told my agent, do whatever we have to do numbers-wise to get this deal done because this is where I wanted to be."

The Vikings cut out the final year of Smith's deal with New Orleans when they signed him, making his deal with Minnesota a three-year contract worth $6.5 million, but other than that they kept the parameters of his Saints deal in place, he said.

Legal incidents aside, Smith has starting talent and experience in the NFL.

Smith's best years have been his last three seasons, when he registered 85 or more tackles per season. He has started 49 of the 78 career games he has played with New Orleans (2005) and Tampa Bay (2001-04), and enjoyed a breakout performance in Super Bowl XXXVII while with Tampa Bay against Oakland when he returned a pair of interceptions for TDs to set a Super Bowl record.

Smith was originally a third-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2001 out of the University of Toledo. In his rookie year, Smith played sparingly on defense but had a career-high 21 tackles on special teams.

In 2002, he recorded 29 tackles on defense and 20 on special teams. He became a full-time starter in 2003, when he had 85 tackles, and he followed that with 104 and 86 tackles the following two years, respectively.

He has 14 career interceptions, all in the last four seasons.

"I consider myself a playmaker, period," Smith said. "That's all I've done in this league and that's all I'm going to continue to do."

As long as his legal troubles don't continue.

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