Smoot, Williamson Demoted

Fred Smoot's fall from grace with the Vikings began last year and his anticipated demotion from the starting lineup Sunday could signal the beginning of the end of his career with the Vikings.

Fred Smoot was viewed as a defensive savior when the Vikings made him a monstrous free agent contract offer to leave the Redskins following the 2004 season. His critics pointed out that he had been protected much of the early part of his career because he played alongside future Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Deion Sanders and that, when forced to be a primary corner, he would struggle.

Smoot's fall from favor began last year when he was torched by Steve Smith of the Panthers in a record-setting 200-yard performance and his stock has dropped steadily. Criticized for giving oppposing receivers too much of a cushion and being beat both underneath and over the top, Smoot has apparently lost his starting job Sunday.

Despite being listed as questionable on the team's injury report, Cedric Griffin is expected to get the start Sunday with Smoot being reduced to the role of nickel back.

It is unclear whether Smoot's anticipated demotion is disciplinary or if he will be approaching the end of his Vikings career as a result of this demotion, but the Vikings have positioned themselves so if he was to be traded or released after the season that his cap hit would be minimal -- likely less than $3 million -- thanks to making his signing bonus primarily in the form of a roster bonus the first year of his contract -- the same as the team did with Antoine Winfield in 2004 and Steve Hutchinson this season. Even if Smoot remains, it is unlikely that his role as a full-time starter and long-term solution at cornerback is going to continue.

* Troy Williamson is also on the hot seat this week. While no official announcement has been made, with Marcus Robinson back from a back injury and Bethel Johnson assuming a larger role in the offense, Williamson is likely not going to start Sunday and may see his contribution reduced to that of a third or even fourth receiver in the Vikings offense.
* The Cardinals had only one significant player listed on their injury report -- defensive lineman Bertrand Berry, who was placed on injured reserve this week.
* The Vikings have several players on their injury report, including Griffin (neck), guard Artis Hicks (ankle) and tackle Marcus Johnson (ankle) listed as questionable, and RB Chester Taylor (neck), DT Pat Williams (knee), LB Dontarrious Thomas (hamstring), CB Antoine Winfield (concussion), DE Jayme Mitchell (shoulder), LB Napoleon Harris (wrist) and Robinson (back) all listed as probable.
* Of those injured players, all but Hicks and Johnson appear available to play.
* Hicks didn't take any first-team reps Thursday in an abbreviated practice. His spot on the first team was shared by Jason Whittle and Anthony Herrera.
* Rumors are flying in Arizona that the decision to fire head coach Dennis Green has already been made and the team is looking to eye Steve Mariucci as their new head coach. The team denied the rumor Thursday. USC coach Pete Carroll is also being speculated as a potential replacement if Green is fired following the season.
* The Vikings are 26th in the league defensively against the pass, but it should be noted that no team has had more passes thrown against it (366) than the Vikings, primarily because teams have been unable to muster much in the running game against the Vikings.
* Tickets still remain for Sunday's game against Arizona. They can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 651-989-5151.

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