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Smoot Set for Return to Minnesota

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cornerback Fred Smoot left Minnesota in March under less than ideal circumstances after a tumultuous two years with the Vikings, but he is happy the focus this weekend will not be on him alone. The Washington Redskins and Vikings are battling for a playoff spot, and Smoot's return to Minneapolis now is merely a subplot.

"I always thought this game is going to mean a lot more than just me going back to Minnesota," Smoot said. "I ain't got nothing to prove to the Minnesota Vikings and I'm happy where I'm at and I'm sure they're happy where they're at."

Smoot was drafted by Washington in 2001 but left as a free agent after the 2004 season. He often was injured with Minnesota, suffered losses in his personal life and was implicated in the "sex boat" scandal that rocked the franchise early in the 2005 season. Smoot joked that there are "three or four fans I might still have there," and figures he may get booed at bit at the Metrodome on Sunday night.

Smoot, who says he remains close to several Vikings, such as defensive backs Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith, concedes that this is not a normal game.

"Anytime you play against your old team, you're not going to wish them the best," he said.

Smoot has long maintained that his heart always was in Washington, however, and has played well but not spectacularly this season while battling hamstring problems.

"He still has some room to improve," cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray said. "He's learning to compete like he did the first time he was here."

Pro Bowl Continues to Elude Fletcher

Linebacker London Fletcher has been the heart and soul of the defense, but that was not enough to get him his first Pro Bowl spot.

"I'm a little disappointed, but I wasn't really counting on it," Fletcher said. "I'm more disappointed for guys like [Green Bay linebacker] Nick Barnett."

The Vikings also have an elite linebacker they believe was snubbed -- former Maryland star E.J. Henderson -- and Coach Joe Gibbs bemoaned that several of his players were only alternates.

Players and coaches were touched, however, that the late Sean Taylor was named a starting safety. "That's a real tribute to him," Gibbs said. "That was great."

Stomach Flu Hits Portis and Moss

Tailback Clinton Portis and wide receiver Santana Moss were excused from practice with stomach flu. . . . Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, who was held out in the second half Sunday night, said he is starting against Minnesota. . . . Gibbs said there is a chance reserve tight end Todd Yoder (knee) may not be back for Sunday's game. . . . Gibbs does not watch games on television, waiting instead for game film, but owner Daniel Snyder called him during Monday night's Vikings-Bears game with some advice after watching Chicago's running game get derailed. "Don't run it on third and one," Gibbs said Snyder told him. . . . Rocky McIntosh, who tore knee ligaments and could miss all of next season, was placed on injured reserve and rookie defensive end Alex Buzbee (Georgetown) was promoted from the practice squad. Cornerback John Eubanks, who had an infected foot, was waived. With some safeties ailing, the Redskins agreed to terms with Omar Stoutmire, who was with the team earlier this season. . . . Linebacker Danny Verdun-Wheeler, an undrafted rookie out of Georgia, and defensive end Tommy Davis, an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina, were signed to the practice squad.

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