Posted on Sat, Jul. 29, 2006

[size=18px]Smith to focus on safety spot[/size]
Tomlin sets up early secondary lineup

BY SEAN JENSEN
Pioneer Press


MANKATO, Minn. — With full-squad practices just two days away, Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin clarified the positions of several players on his depth chart in the secondary.

Tomlin said Dwight Smith, who was signed this week, would focus on both safety spots.

"Dwight is capable of playing a lot of things, and he has always been an unselfish guy in that regard, but we'll focus on safety right now," Tomlin said.

Assuming Darren Sharper starts at one safety spot, that leaves Smith to compete with Tank Williams and Willie Offord for the other.

Offord considers himself the odd man out.

"Everybody's expectation going into this week was that Tank and I would be competing for the job," he said. "I'm pretty sure that's all changed now with bringing in Dwight.

"I can't be upset. I can't be bitter about the situation," Offord said.

"Obviously, I'm coming off an ACL injury. Everything's looking good now, but as coaches, you never know what's going to happen."

Offord said he figured the Vikings would try to sign Smith when he was released by the New Orleans Saints this month. But Offord said he can't worry about such matters and noted that his knee is "full go."

Tomlin said rookie Cedric Griffin, a second-round draft pick, would work only at cornerback, putting him in the mix for the nickel spot against Dovonte Edwards, Dustin Fox, Charles Gordon and Ronyell Whitaker.

Although Whitaker has been in the NFL since 2003, he is technically a first-year player, with four NFL games to his credit. But he starred in NFL Europe, and he is familiar with Tomlin. As of now, the most experienced nickel cornerback is Dovonte Edwards, who played in 12 games last season after making the team as an undrafted free agent.

Fox was a third-round pick last year but suffered a season-ending arm injury in the first week of training camp.

"Competition always makes you better," he said. "Everyone is capable of making the team and contributing."

After being switched to safety a year ago, Fox returns to cornerback, a position he played in college at Ohio State. Still, he feels like a rookie again, and he wants to prove himself.

"I feel I owe to the Vikings to get on the field and contribute since I didn't get a chance last year," he said. "My goal is to do whatever it takes to make this team."

Coaching interns: The Vikings are hosting three minority coaches during training camp. They are:

• Kanavis McGhee, a former NFL linebacker and defensive end who coached in NFL Europe this past spring.

• Corey Raymond, who played six seasons in the NFL, with the Detroit Lions and New York Giants. Raymond had 11 career interceptions and played college football at Louisiana State.

• Henry Lusk was a seventh-round pick of the Saints in 1996 and played five seasons in the NFL with five teams. He is the receivers coach at Weber State in Ogden, Utah.

Early bird: Vikings first-round pick Chad Greenway was the first player on the field Friday, 45 minutes before the start of practice.

Asked if he was trying to make an impression, Greenway said, "That's what I try to do every day, I guess.

"You want to get out here, and you want to be in the right place when practice starts. It's maybe the first-day jitters a little bit, too. You are supposed to be the first one out here and the last one off, right?"

Sean Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Smith to focus on safety spot