Losing second-round draft pick Raonall Smith for the season is another blow to the Vikings, considering his quick climb up the depth chart in training camp. The linebacker showed positive signs in a preseason game against Buffalo on Aug. 16, but a separated shoulder slowed his progress since and he was placed on injured reserve yesterday.
Naturally, some officials at Winter Park are frustrated.
"Right now, his mindset is he can't go out and play with the injury," head coach Mike Tice said. "If he can't play with the injury we're going to move on, and that's unfortunate for a second-round pick."
A week before the season opener, director of college scouting Scott Studwell foreshadowed the Vikings' growing concerns with Smith's status. "Unfortunately, some of the situations you need to get experienced in don't happen when you're injured," Studwell previously told the VU.
Smith said he's sitting out not only to protect himself from further injury, but to not hurt the team as well. Playing with an injury, he said, would force him to be a liability on the field.
"It's a risk," Smith said. "You not only hurt yourself, but you hurt the team. I don't want to be out there, have the shoulder pop out and then at the same time get mowed over in the end zone as a guy scores a touchdown."
The injury isn't the first in Smith's football career. As a redshirt freshman at Washington State, Smith missed about half the season because of a shoulder injury. He played in eight games — starting in four of them — as a sophomore. Smith started all 11 games in each of his senior and junior seasons at Washington State.
A separated shoulder is an injury that players occasionally play with, but because Smith is a rookie, he doesn't want to jeopardize his future.
"They don't want me to do too much damage, so it couldn't be repaired again," Smith said.
Losing Smith for the season is just the latest of a series of oddities for recent Vikings second-round draft picks.
Last year, Willie Howard, who was highly regarded at defensive tackle entering his rookie season, played in eight games before suffering a season-ending knee injury and broken leg in a game against Tennessee on Dec. 9. Howard, a Stanford lineman who was drafted 57th overall in the 2001 draft, entered training camp this season with as much promise but was placed on IR before the season even began.
Michael Boireau, the Vikings' 2000 second-round pick (56th overall), was inactive for his first four games with the Vikings, then was placed on IR with a right hand injury. He underwent knee and hand surgery that season. Last year, he missed the entire season because of an eye injury and is now out of football.
Fred Robbins was also a 2000 second-round draft pick, but he is an exception to the second-round jinx theory, because the Vikings were able to pick him as a result of trading quarterback Brad Johnson to Tampa Bay. Robbins, a "bonus" pick from Wake Forest, played in eight games during his somewhat disappointing rookie season, registering five tackles for the Vikings. Last season, he showed signs of improving and started 12 of 16 games while registering 45 tackles. This season, he is the team's starting nose tackle.
The Vikings drafted Jim Kleinsasser in the second round of the 1999 draft. His stock has continually risen since. It's worth noting that their second pick in that draft, however, was Dimitrius Underwood. After reporting to training camp on time, Underwood was absent without leave a day later. He was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and, after at least two attempts with teams, has failed to stay in the NFL.
The Vikings drafted Kailee Wong in the second round of the 1998 draft. He eventually became the team's middle linebacker — he led the Vikings with 116 tackles last season — but after four years in Minnesota, he signed a free-agent contract with Houston and is now a starter for the first-year Texans.
Safety Torrian Gray was the 1997 second-round pick, and defensive tackle James Manley was the 1996 second-round pick. Neither one of them made contributions of significance in a Vikings uniform.
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