- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2007

No Redskins player was more brash than Fred Smoot during his first tenure in Washington. If he wasn’t talking trash to opposing receivers on the field, he was talking smack to anyone in the locker room who would listen.

But battered physically and mentally the past two years with the Minnesota Vikings, Smoot desperately wanted a safe haven. Somewhere he could be Fred Smoot.

The choice was obvious. Now that he’s back in Washington, Smoot, somewhat chastened, feels he can open up about all that went wrong in Minnesota.

It’s a long list for such a short period. The death of his half-brother in a car crash. The first serious injury of his career. The loss of his job as a starting cornerback because of poor play and for failing to be on time. And, most famously, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the “Love Boat” scandal.

“Nothing happened on that boat,” Smoot said of the October 2005 cruise on Lake Minnetonka on which Smoot and other Vikings players were accused of engaging in sexual acts with prostitutes. “I wasn’t the organizer. I was the new guy. I was along for the ride. The media took the four guys with the biggest contracts — me, Daunte Culpepper, Bryant McKinnie and Moe Williams — and blew the story out of proportion.”

Smoot pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, was fined $1,000 and performed 48 hours of community service. He also was fined one game check — about $82,000 — by the NFL.

“Look at the criminal charges: Disturbing the peace. A $1,000 fine,” Smoot said. “Do you think that’s what it would’ve been if anything had happened?”

Smoot said that, in fact, nothing did happen.

“No one touched a woman,” he said. “There were no DUIs. We were driven home in limos. As soon as we were accused, it was like, ‘They’re football players. They must be guilty.’ Yes, we drank, but we were all old enough to drink. There were women on the boat, but no one touched them. There was no sex party. We’re smarter than that.

“Believe me, it was hard talking to my mother after the story broke. But after I explained to her what really happened, she understood.”

Still, almost six months after he last wore a Vikings uniform, Smoot can’t quite understand how things went so wrong in Minnesota.

“It was one thing after another,” said Smoot, who accepted a six-year, $34 million offer to leave the Redskins and join the Vikings in March 2005. “Picture me depressed. I was hating going to work. I didn’t want to talk to the media. I just wanted to play the games.”

Not that the games were much fun, either. The Redskins ended a five-year playoff drought the season after Smoot left, but the Vikings posted just a 10-15 record in the games in which he played the past two years.

Smoot, who missed only four games in four years with the Redskins, broke his collarbone midway through the 2005 season — “the first injury where they looked me in the face and said point-blank, ‘You can’t play for [four] weeks,’ ” he said.

Then-coach Mike Tice benched Smoot for the 2005 regular-season finale for oversleeping and missing the pregame bus. Smoot played so poorly last season in the cover-2 scheme of new defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, now with Pittsburgh, that he was benched in November.

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