Griffin Promotion Appears Permanent

The Vikings seem willing to stick with their recent move of making cornerback Cedric Griffin a starter over Fred Smoot.

The Vikings appear set to go the rest of the season with rookie cornerback Cedric Griffin playing in front of veteran Fred Smoot. This could mean the end for Smoot as a Viking following this season. Smoot's season has been no picnic, as he found out about the accidental death of his half-brother immediately following a game, was recently investigate for assault – in which no charges were filed – and now is dealing with his demotion.

"I would imagine that dealing with his brother's passing has been difficult like it would be difficult on all of us," said defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. "In regards to the lineup change, that's just the nature of professional sports. He's a competitor. He's coming out here fighting on a day-to-day basis. I would probably attribute to maybe the change in his personality to the loss of his brother, not necessarily what is going on from a position standpoint. That's the nature of this beast in the National Football League. Guys that play well are going to play, and that's how it goes, so he's preparing himself to put good stuff on tape to compete and compete for his job."

It's clear the Vikings like the fact Griffin can play the physical style at corner that is a key to success in the Tampa-2. Smoot simply doesn't possess this ability and therefore is not a very good fit. "It wasn't necessarily about Fred in regards to Cedric becoming a starting player. It was about Cedric, and what he was doing. He's playing at a high level," Tomlin said. "He's playing with great detail in terms of his technique, and he's playing violently, and let's face it, this is a violent game that we play. He's a football player first and a corner second, and we honor those types of attributes."

Nonetheless, the Vikings will continue to utilize Smoot in the nickel package. In these situations — and the Vikings have been playing plenty of nickel because of teams' tendency to stay away from the run against them — Smoot plays in his old spot at right corner, Griffin plays left corner and Antoine Winfield moves to the slot.

NOTES

  • The Vikings' last victory on the road against Chicago occurred on Oct. 15, 2000, when they beat the Bears 28-16. Minnesota rallied after trailing by nine points midway through the second quarter. Running back Robert Smith sparked the turnaround with a 72-yard touchdown run.

  • The Vikings upset the Bears 37-13 in the first game in franchise history on Sept. 17, 1961 at Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings were coached by Norm Van Brocklin; Chicago was led by George Halas.

  • The longest interception return in Vikings' history came on Oct. 19, 1989 when linebacker Walker Lee Ashley took a ball 94 yards for a touchdown. The Vikings won that game 23-7 at the Metrodome after losing earlier in the season 23-0 at Chicago.

  • The Vikings played the Bears in a 1994 NFC wild card playoff game, marking the first time in team history Minnesota met a divisional opponent in the playoffs. Chicago cruised to a 35-18 victory in that game.

  • QB Brad Johnson completed a career-high 40 passes on 56 attempts for 399 yards against Chicago when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 18, 2001.

  • CB Antoine Winfield scored the first touchdown of his eight-year career when he intercepted a Rex Grossman pass and returned it seven yards in the first meeting of the season between the teams this year.

  • WR Marcus Robinson played the first five seasons of his career in Chicago (1998-2002) and set a Bears' franchise record with 1,400 yards receiving in 1999.

  • SS Darren Sharper said Wednesday that Bears quarterback Rex Grossman did plenty of trash-talking when the teams met in Week 3. Grossman was especially vocal after throwing the winning touchdown pass with 1 minute, 53 seconds left. This didn't make Sharper very happy. Grossman said he did the talking because he was upset about the taunting he had taken from FS Dwight Smith. "In 10 years I haven't had a quarterback do that to me at anytime," Sharper said. "We definitely remember that and the guys in the locker room remember that. Will that decide the game on Sunday? I don't think so. But it gives us a little extra motivation."

  • WR Troy Williamson apparently suffered a black eye on Sunday night when he was allegedly punched by a security guard at a nightclub where Sharper was throwing a party. Coach Brad Childress indicated no disciplinary action would be coming against Williamson, who already has been demoted to fifth receiver status.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 999 — The rushing yards that running back Chester Taylor has entering Sunday's game against the Bears. The last Vikings player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season was Michael Bennett in 2002. Bennett ran for 1,296 yards that season.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm definitely not myself. I can't do the things that I can do without it. But it has allowed me to play football and that's the most important thing to me to be out there and play football." — Middle linebacker Napoleon Harris on having played the past two games with a cast on his dislocated left wrist.


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