<
>

Smoot, jaw broken in five places, out Sunday

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot will miss the last game of the regular season because of a
jaw broken in five places as a result of a recent car accident.

Fred Smoot Smoot

The single-vehicle crash, first revealed by coach Brad Childress
at his Wednesday news conference, happened in Smoot's hometown of
Jackson, Miss. After the Vikings were eliminated from playoff
contention with a 9-7 loss to the Packers last Thursday, players
had the holiday weekend off.

Jackson Police Cmdr. Lee Vance said Wednesday that the crash
occurred early Saturday morning on Interstate 55. He said Smoot was
in the back seat of a 2007 Rolls-Royce when the 26-year-old driver,
Percy Donalson, lost control and struck a guardrail. The car was
towed from the scene.


Vance indicated that alcohol was not a factor in the crash and there was "no apparent improper driving," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"It's really tough," Vikings cornerback Ronyell Whitaker said, according to the Star-Tribune. "You feel bad for him. All you can do is just pray. That's what I've been doing is praying for him."

Smoot's agent, Bus Cook, said his client was out of the hospital
and should be ready to resume football activities after recovery
time of at least one month. According to Cook, Donalson lost
control while trying to avoid another vehicle that had swerved in
front of them. Cook said he did not believe Smoot was wearing a
seat belt, adding that nobody involved was seriously hurt.

Smoot, 27, whose interception return was Minnesota's only score
at Green Bay, has exchanged text messages with Childress, but is
unable to speak following the surgery. He was placed on the
non-football injury reserve list, which means the Vikings (6-9)
won't pay him for the final week. Smoot signed a six-year contract
worth up to $34 million including a $10.8 million signing bonus
with Minnesota before the 2005 season. His base salary for 2006 was
$800,000.

His time with the Vikings has been eventful, though much for the
wrong reasons. One of the three players ultimately charged with
misdemeanors in last year's wild boat party, Smoot was fined $1,000
and ordered to community service by the court and later slapped
with a league-imposed penalty of about $82,000 for the same. He was
benched for the first series of one game this season for another
matter that Childress indicated was for disciplinary reasons.

Then in November, Smoot didn't play against the Packers when he
missed a week of practice following the death of his half brother
in a car accident.

"It's been a rough year for him, but hopefully nothing else
happens," Cook said.

Smoot could be cut during the offseason. He lost his starting
job to rookie Cedric Griffin, the second straight season he has
been replaced in the lineup. Last year, Brian Williams took over
when Smoot broke his collarbone and kept the spot when Smoot
returned. Smoot became a starter again after Williams signed with
Jacksonville in March.

In two seasons with Minnesota, Smoot has only three
interceptions.

Griffin was placed on injured reserve himself Wednesday because
of a neck injury that kept him out against Green Bay. That leaves
the Vikings quite thin in the secondary for their game on Sunday
against playoff-hopeful St. Louis.

Minnesota has allowed more yards passing than anyone this year,
and the Rams (7-8) -- who still have a chance at a wild-card spot in
a weak conference -- are fourth in the NFL in yards passing. Ronyell
Whitaker and Charles Gordon will move up the depth chart, and
another cornerback, Michael Hawkins, was claimed Wednesday off
waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

"We definitely have our hands full," said Antoine Winfield,
the team's top cornerback, "but I think we'll be up to the test."

The Vikings also added defensive end Khreem Smith to the active
roster and filled his place on the practice squad with cornerback
Dimitri Patterson. Having released veteran receiver Marcus Robinson
on Sunday, the team still had one open spot. Childress said
cornerback Patrick Body was a candidate to be brought up from the
practice squad.

Backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger's shoulder has improved,
Childress said, but he is still not fully healed. Other players
listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report were punter
Chris Kluwe (hamstring) and receiver Troy Williamson (hamstring).hamstring

The Associated Press contributed to this report.