Vets still guiding Vikings 'D' but youth the fuel

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 5:06 pm •  Published: October 5, 2012
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That's the same reaction Vikings coaches had when they first watched Smith in action during the practices leading up to the Senior Bowl in January. He hasn't disappointed, with 30 tackles, six passes defended and no glaring mistakes through his first four NFL games.

His best moment so far was probably last Sunday at Detroit, when he hit wide receiver Calvin Johnson so hard that the Lions star couldn't hang onto what would've been a touchdown catch late in the second quarter. The Lions had to settle for a field goal on that drive, and the Vikings won 20-13.

"We want people to have a second thought about us or not just think they're running free down our defense," Smith said.

Williams, paraphrasing his former boss in Indianapolis, then-coach Tony Dungy, called Smith "the eraser" for his ability to make up for other's errors in coverage or pursuit. Free safety Jamarca Sanford raved about his partner's instincts and intelligence.

"You get a lot of rookies, they might know their assignment but they don't know what other guys are doing," Sanford said. "And he's one of the guys who really knows what everyone's doing on defense."

That's legitimate leadership, regardless of age.

"I'm doing my job and working to get better every day. That's enough for me right now, and if that evolves into me leading or if people like how I play and kind of see that as leading then so be it," Smith said. "But I'm not going to try to take over the room or anything."

Notes: After sitting out the last two days because of a groin injury, Allen participated fully in Friday's practice. QB Christian Ponder (right knee) and WR Michael Jenkins (rib) did the same. Coach Leslie Frazier said all of them will be "fine" to play in Sunday's game against Tennessee. ... Marvin Mitchell, who has filled in for Erin Henderson at weak side LB, has a strained calf muscle and probably won't be available. Henderson will be back after missing the last two games with a concussion.

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