Welcome to Smoot-Smith Week

After last year's 201-yard output by Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith against the Vikings, cornerback Fred Smoot might have a chance to put that ugly game behind him with a good defensive showing Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. But Smoot's teammates came to his defense and explained why things could be different this year.

If Vikings fans didn't know how good Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith was before he lit up Minnesota's secondary on Oct. 30, 2005, they do now.

In Minnesota, Smith and Fred Smoot will long be linked, as Smoot was often put on single-duty assignment against the blazing receiver who finished the game with 201 yards on 11 receptions.

"We haven't got into a breakdown of what he did last year because we don't play that same defense," said safety Dwight Smith, who played for the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers that faced Smith twice each season. "Watching that film wouldn't really do anything for us because they're not going to run those kind of plays against this defense."

Panthers coach John Fox agreed: "I haven't had a chance to see that game from last year. It's a totally different organization and team now than it was last year."

Vikings coach Brad Childress and several other players also held that line of thinking. Childress was asked if he would talk to Smoot about that game last year.

"I think it is all new. You've got to remember Steve Smith lit it up about everybody last year, if my recollection serves. He's a Pro Bowl guy and ran wild throughout the playoffs. He's a good football player, hands down," Childress said. "We'll have our hands full. You want to win more than you lose against him. He's a good football player and no, I don't particularly go out of my way to talk to anybody else because they're playing within the scheme of things, and if you play within the scheme, if you do the things you're supposed to do within this scheme, you've got a chance of high probability for success. That guy or those guys just need to do their job and we'll be fine. Their best is plenty good for us."

Childress is right on one account. The Vikings were hardly the only team that Smith experienced success against. He finished the 2005 season with 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Vikings game wasn't his only big output, but it was his best.

"It's hard to keep a guy like that in check," Dwight Smith said. "He didn't lead the NFL in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns for not being the guy he is. Hopefully we can just get out there and be the players we're supposed to be and stop him from making the big play.

"When you're as balanced as he is, it's hard to tackle. He's a guy who will make a lot of guys miss, break a lot of tackles. He doesn't have to get the ball thrown over the top to make a big play. He'll make it off a screen pass, a reverse, anything – any way he can get his hands on the ball."

Safety Greg Blue, who started for Dwight Smith on Monday night, called Steve Smith a Michael Jordan on the football field.

But if the Vikings are banking solely on the fact that they've got a new defense that will help contain the explosive wideout, they might want to look at Smith's game-by-game performances last year. Some of his biggest days came against the Tampa-2 scheme that the Vikings are using this year.

The week after lighting up Minnesota, Smith had 106 yards on five receptions against Tampa Bay. Two weeks later, against Chicago, he went for 169 yards on 14 receptions. Three weeks after that, he put up another 103 yards against Tampa Bay.

"Any defense can get exploited, regardless of what you play. I think the difference now is going to be the discipline in the defense, guys being the position they're supposed to be in and not trying to make too many plays," Dwight Smith said. "That's what's going to make the difference."

It's possible that all the talk about Steve Smith and Fred Smoot this week will be moot. Smith is listed as questionable on the injury report (hamstring). Fox said Smith will be "day-to-day," but it doesn't appear the Vikings are going to believe they'll be fortunate enough to see Smith in street clothes on the sideline Sunday at the Metrodome.

"I would also expect Steve Smith to play, regardless of what's reported," Childress said.

If he doesn't play, the Panthers still have a couple of decent players – Keary Colbert and Keyshawn Johnson – they can throw at the Vikings secondary.

But they don't seem to worry Dwight Smith quite the same way Steve Smith would.

"They're more of possession guys, especially when you talk about Keyshawn Johnson – he's more of a possession guy," Dwight Smith said. "That's what you look for on third down. You look for them to throw to a Keyshawn Johnson or Keary Colbert, but all the big plays we know are going to go through 89 (Smith)."

No matter what transpires the rest of this week with Steve Smith's injury or Smoot downplaying the potential matchup, the rest of the Vikings aren't about to lay blame on Smoot for 89's success on Oct. 30, 2006.

Some players said the philosophy of leaving Smoot matched up in single coverage against Smith last year was flawed. Others say Smoot just had a bad day.

"We're professionals. Everybody is going to have a bad day now and then," Dwight Smith said. "Steve Smith is making checks just like Fred Smoot is making checks. He got the best that day. We doubt if it's going to happen again. We're here to play football and last year ain't got nothing to do with what's going on now."

Viking Update Top Stories