Sunday, October 16, 2005


Can Fred Smoot clean his hands of Al and Alma?

A MINNE-HAHA ON LAKE MINNETONKA: Last year, Fred Smoot, then with the Washington Redskins, said, “75 percent of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Smoot.” Apparently, when it comes to the Vikings’ sex shenanigans aboard Al & Alma's Supper Club and Charter Cruises on Lake Minnetonka, he can’t cover his own butt fast enough. Although reports that Smoot chartered one of the two yachts for the cruise are unconfirmed (Smoot terms the reports “slanderous”), it’s bad enough that he – one of the class acts when he was with the Washington Redskins – is now struggling to make himself known on a team that has had its own share of disciplinary problems in the past (look up Onterrio Smith, Kevin Williams and Randy “Moon” Moss).

Really, I love Smoot. When the Redskins drafted him in the second round of the 2001 draft out of Ole Miss, he carried character issues which may have resulted in his being passed over in the first round. Although he is very small and slight for a typical cornerback, he brought a determined work ethic, deceptive quickness, and a great gift of gab to the position. It helped that he played opposite Champ Bailey, one of the best cornerbacks in today’s NFL. Last year, Smoot endured a painful sternum injury. For someone who liked to run his mouth to attract attention, and talk smack with opponents, he displayed an incredible level of fortitude and determination as he battled the injury and played the best games of his career. Off the field, he was a model citizen. When Clinton Portis got into a dispute with safety Ifeanyi Ohalete over compensation for the use of Ohalete’s No. 26 as his own number, Smoot acted as a mediator between the two players, which went a long way toward resolving the situation. He actively participated in Redskins community events around the Washington area and brought a genuine sense of charity to his activities.

Like Rod Gardner and Laveranues Coles, I was honestly surprised and not a little displeased that Smoot was looking for a better contract elsewhere. Of course, the Redskins’ salary cap situation made it difficult for the team to retain its best players (and may play a role in LaVar Arrington’s contract situation after this season), so management had to pick and choose which players to keep and which to let go. But unlike Gardner and Coles, Smoot didn’t bitch and moan about his team. He very much wanted to stay with the Redskins, because of all the friends he made there, but ultimately, it was the dollar sign that factored in his decision. When he signed with the Vikings, I had a feeling he would disappear from the face of the earth, moving from the very active and intense media market of Washington to a much smaller metropolitan area in the mosquito-infested woods of the North. As much of a basket case as the Redskins were, having endured several seasons of high expectations under Dan Snyder, the Vikings had an even more unenviable reputation of shoddy management and questionable decisions on the field and off, so Smoot was in for a real challenge.

Sure enough, he was never heard from again beyond the Minnesota state line, at least until the Love Boat scandal broke last week. Once he signed with the Vikings, his quotable quotations ended up in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, instead of the nationally read Washington Post. His words were transmitted on KFAN rather than on the George Michael Show.

The Lake Minnetonka escapade (hereafter known as “Lake Gimmeboinka,” coined by my widdew friend Wikkid) hasn’t helped his national reputation. Knowing Smoot, I tend to believe his account that he didn’t get involved in any activities considered illegal or unethical. He’s just too good a guy to do that stuff -- I have a feeling that when things went awry, Smoot tried to defuse the situation.

Of course, if Minnesota were 3-1 instead of 1-3, and was doing well on the defensive side of the ball, Smoot would get far more positive recognition not only on the field, but off the field as well. He must be missing his friends on the Redskins these days.

I’m on Smoot’s side – for now. He’s innocent until proven guilty.

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