Vikings agree to part ways with veteran safety Smith

Dwight Smith's two loud seasons with Minnesota ended Wednesday when the Vikings released the seven-year veteran safety, making him a free agent.

Signed just before training camp in 2006, Smith -- who had two interceptions for champion Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl following the 2002 season -- was productive with the Vikings on the field. He picked off four passes, including a 93-yard touchdown return last November against the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

He formed a reliable tandem at safety with Pro Bowl selection Darren Sharper, and had a clear presence in the locker room. His raspy voice was easily heard above the din and he carried himself in a cocksure manner, but he was also respected enough to be included on the eight-member leadership committee formed by coach Brad Childress to maintain communication with players.

Smith, however, didn't always agree with the team's defensive philosophy and had some conflicts with Childress. Then there were the two arrests, once for indecent conduct with a woman in a stairwell outside a downtown club, and also for obstructing traffic and possessing marijuana in a car outside a strip club.

The drug charge, a petty misdemeanor, was dropped earlier this month.

Childress, in Indianapolis for the NFL's scouting combine, called reporters himself to announce the team's decision.

"We appreciate his contributions. We're just going in a different direction," Childress said. "I just think it's the right thing to do for him and his agent before free agency begins."

Sharper is only under contract for one more season. Backups Michael Doss and Tank Williams will become unrestricted free agents next week. Certainly, given the depth chart at his position, Smith's behavior off the field factored into the move -- even if the coach wasn't willing to acknowledge it.

"I'm not going to cast any aspersions on Dwight," Childress said. "I'm going to let it stand for itself and stay on the high road."

Smith, a third-round draft pick by the Buccaneers in 2001 out of Akron, has 22 interceptions in 107 career NFL games. He spent one season, 2005, with the New Orleans Saints.