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Smoot Returns a Humbler Man


Fred Smoot has always been known for his outgoing personality with Redskins fans and teammates and his playful banter with the media.

Then Smoot went away to Minnesota, and life changed him.

He's still outgoing and playful. He even vows that "Smoot Smack," his brand of trash talking on and off the field, will be back.

But the new Fred Smoot is more humble.

Smoot left the Redskins in March 2005 to sign with the Vikings. He found himself involved in the so-called "Love Boat" controversy that grabbed national headlines. He struggled to make an impact on the field, grabbing just three interceptions in two seasons.

Then, on Nov. 5, 2006, his 20-year-old half-brother Matthew died in a car accident in Jackson, Miss. Smoot found out about it shortly after the Vikings' Week 9 game against San Francisco.

The accident took a toll on Smoot, who admits he went into a depression.

"Believe that? Smiling Fred Smoot goes into a depression," he said. "It happened. I was down, and that's when I decided [to return to the Redskins]. I went to the front office and told [Vikings management] I didn't want to be there anymore.

"We needed to work something out. I came back here and now the smile is back."

Smoot says his experience in Minnesota, and his half-brother's tragic death, has changed him.

"I'm the same old Fred Smoot, just a smarter person," he said. "You can't ever take stuff for granted. You never know when your time will come, and that's way beyond what football is all about.

"I play for my brother, I play for me, I play for my folks, and I play for the people watching. I go out there to have fun. That's my thing."

Smoot had plenty of fun in his first four seasons with the Redskins. He logged 16 interceptions from 2001-04, playing along-side the likes of Darrell Green, Champ Bailey and Shawn Springs, and established himself as a vocal presence and team leader.

Smoot endeared himself to Redskins fans by playing through injuries, including a painful sternum injury in 2003.

Now that Smoot's back, the memories return with him. He has embraced the changes within him--and the changes with the Redskins.

"They put a couple new buildings up [at Redskins Park]," he said. "But other than that, there are a lot of the same players, and a lot of players that I want to be playing with.

"We have a lot more talent. We have a lot of guys with different mind frames. You can tell by the things we say to each other and how we challenge each other in practice every day."

Now that Smoot is a regular again at Redskins Park, he's eager to remind fans what he brings to the table.

"I'm not wearing my [jersey] number [21], but I still love the color," he said. "It feels good. It's just like coming back home. It's a breath of fresh air. I can't wait to walk back into FedExField. I know I'll have a warm welcome when I go back there."

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