Smoot's partially broken collarbone, which will sideline him three to six weeks, means the entire pecking order of defensive backs has been bumped up. Brian Williams moves up to starting cornerback, Ralph Brown moves up to nickel back, and rookie free agent Dovonte Edwards moves up to dime back.
Williams, one of the team's quieter players (ironic, considering he is replacing Smoot), was asked about his starting role. "I've started before," Williams said as he hurried to a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Williams had his streak of 32 consecutive starts broken this season when the Vikings started Smoot, their prized free agent acquisition, two months ago in the season opener. The addition of Smoot meant Williams' demotion to nickel back. Williams silently voiced his displeasure by not attending offseason minicamps, but he reported to training camp on time.
"I think Brian's had a great year," Tice said. "Brian's very athletic and has a knack of blitzing. He's a great athlete and a super tackler. I'm not happy for Fred — it's too bad — but I'm happy that Brian gets the chance to go out there and compete and show what he can do."
Edwards, who has played sparingly this season, feels the same way. Edwards, like Williams, is a former North Carolina State player. Edwards started all 11 games last year for the Wolfpack and had 40 tackles and three interceptions. He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. Edwards will play defense in obvious passing situations when the Vikings put six defensive backs on the field.
Gallishaw, who played collegiately for Division I-AA Murray State after transferring there from Louisville, is also an undrafted rookie free agent. He has been active in two games for the Vikings this season, playing special teams.
"I have a tremendous amount of confidence in those two young corners we have — Dovonte Edwards and Laroni Gallishaw," Tice said. "If we had this kind of depth a couple of previous years we might have been OK down the road as the season closed out. We feel good about those guys."
Both young corners say they have spent time learning from the best, Smoot and Antoine Winfield.
"It's definitely more of a mental game," Edwards said. "You have to study the game. You have to always be thinking about the game. I'd say the study habits and the mental preparation is what guys do who have been there and are successful at it."
Being a student of the game, Edwards says, is what has given him a chance to play.
"We just have to pay close attention to the details," Edwards said. "Ever since the first week I've been trying to prepare myself as if I was playing. I've been waiting for my time to come. Now that the opportunity has presented itself, I have to go out there and hold it down."
Gallishaw, who will back up Edwards, is excited at the potential opportunity.
"It's our time to step up and show what we can do," Gallishaw said. "We have to come up to the challenge. I'm really happy about the situation and I'm ready to show my ability. Stepping up and playing is something me and Dovonte have been wanting to do. Now we get our opportunity and hopefully it will work out well."
Smoot fractured his collarbone last week against the Lions. But after sitting out for a series, he returned and finished the game. Smoot could be out three to six weeks, Tice said, but it shouldn't be season ending.
"We know that Fred will be back before the end of the season," he said. "Who knows, it could be three, four, five, six weeks. (Doctors) are saying four to six weeks. We know he's a fast healer and we know it's not fractured all the way through. It's a terrible setback for us and our defense, but I have a lot of confidence in those young corners."
FRIENDS OF THE FAMILY
Tice, a friend of the entire Manning family (Archie, and his sons, Peyton and Eli), said his son, Nathan, attends Peyton and Eli's football camp every year. "They're both very, very smart quarterbacks," Tice said.
Rookie Marcus Johnson blocked for Eli Manning two years ago when they were teammates at Mississippi.
"He's a great football player who's having a heckuva season this year," Johnson said.