ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -In front of Fred Smoot's locker on Wednesday was a box of Fred Smoot's Smack Energy Bars. The blue writing on the orange label encourages one and all to ``Snack on a Smack!''
Inside the locker was a huge color photograph of the Washington Redskins defensive backs, taken shortly before Sean Taylor's death. Taylor, a beaming smile showing through his dreadlocks, is standing on the back row at the far left.
In between was Smoot, and the setting couldn't have been more appropriate. The veteran cornerback is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, a player whose loud, nonstop optimism of a few years ago has been tempered by controversy and tragedy.
keep my mind on what it needs to be on.''
On Sunday, Smoot returns to a place where he was truly miserable. It's supposed to be his revenge game against the Minnesota Vikings, where he spent two years that were marred by injuries, team rules violations and a disorderly conduct charge for his actions at the infamous ``Love Boat'' party. He was lured to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in 2005 because of the money, but he eventually lost his starting job and was cut at the end of last season.
``I know a lot about their team. And I will inform my team - like only a real traitor would do,'' he said with a laugh.
So, instead of the ``Smooooooot'' he hears at home, does he expect to be serenaded with ``Booooooo!'' on Sunday?
``You know the good part about it? I won't be able to tell the difference,'' he said. ``Out of the three or four fans that I still might have there, maybe they'll put a little 'S' on the front of that 'boo' and I'll get a little 'Smoot' out of it.''
When the schedule came out, Smoot figured he'd be in full ``I'll show 'em'' mode for this game, but too much has happened since. Taylor's death on Nov. 27 hit him hard, and it brought forth anew the emotions from last November, when his half brother was killed in a car accident.
But overall, Smoot is thrilled simply to be back in Washington, where he played for four seasons before he made what he now admits was the big mistake of leaving for the Vikings. Once Minnesota let him go, there was no doubt he was headed back to where he always felt comfortable.
``They let me back in the house,'' Smoot said. ``Physically I'm happy and mentally I'm happy. I'm always happy to be a Redskin.''
Smoot started slowly this season because of a nagging hamstring injury, but he had a superb game shutting down Plaxico Burress in last week's 22-10 victory over the New York Giants. Originally signed to be the third cornerback, he's been starting since Carlos Rogers was lost for the season with a knee injury in October. Smoot doesn't have an interception this season, but he also hasn't allowed a touchdown.
``Fred was as excited to leave Minneapolis as anybody,'' Vikings coach Brad Childress said. ``Quite frankly, I enjoy Fred Smoot. I think he's got a great personality and he can keep things loose and laugh, but I'm not sure overall he had a great experience here and sometimes a change of scenery is good.''
Coaches and teammates are fully expecting Smoot to give his old team an extra dose of his notorious on-field smack talk Sunday, but Smoot has another reason to be invigorated: He's never been to the playoffs.
The Redskins went to the postseason the year after Smoot left. Now they are 7-7, one game behind Minnesota (8-6) in the chase for a wild-card berth.
``It would be sweet any way to make the playoffs for the first time,'' Smoot said, ``so it wouldn't matter if I had to beat the Minnesota Vikings or the New England Patriots. ... I always knew this game would mean a little bit more than just me going back to Minnesota.''
Notes: LB Rocky McIntosh, who tore two knee ligaments in the game against the Giants, became the 10th Redskins player this season to be placed on injured reserve. ... The team also waived CB John Eubanks, who has been sidelined with a foot infection. Eubanks' foot is better, but the team wanted to make room to sign a veteran defensive back, which they plan to do Thursday. ... DE Alex Buzbee, an undrafted rookie from Georgetown, was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster. ... Two players were signed to the practice squad: DE Tommy Davis and LB Danny Verdun-Wheeler. ... Instead of a regular Wednesday practice, the team held an extended walkthrough. ``Sunday night was an emotional game,'' coach Joe Gibbs said. ``I wanted to give them a little extra rest.'' RB Clinton Portis and WR Santana Moss were both absent due to illness. ... Gibbs didn't watch Minnesota's game live Monday night - he rarely watches games on TV - but owner Dan Snyder did. ``He called me the next day and said 'Don't run it on third-and-1,''' Gibbs said with a laugh.

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