One year after former Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph was named Minnesota Vikings Rookie of the Year, another Fighting Irish alumnus is on track to win the award. First-year safety Harrison Smith, who’s proving more and more each week his first-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft was on the money, has 32 tackles through the team’s 5-2 start.
With seven total tackles in each of Minnesota’s first three games, Smith has been consistently disruptive, and the Knoxville, Tenn. native intercepted his first pass as a pro Sunday in a 21-14 victory over visiting Arizona — a pick he returned 31 yards for the decisive touchdown. It was the first interception by a Minnesota safety since the 2007 season, and the first by a Vikings rookie defensive player since 2003.
Minnesota led 14-7 early in the third quarter when Cardinals quarterback John Skelton tried to hit receiver Early Doucet. Smith jumped in front of the pass, cut right and sprinted down the sideline and through the goal line.
The defensive score was crucial considering Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder completed just 1 of 7 passing attempts for four yards in the second half.
It was the first time this season Smith didn’t make headlines that were detrimental to his bank account. Unintentionally, the 6-2, 214-pounder has become the bad boy of the rookie class, having been fined twice and ejected once since coming to the league. Smith ponied up $21,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit in a preseason game against San Diego.
On Oct. 19, he was penalized $15,750 a few days after a horse-collar tackle on fellow first-year player Robert Griffin III, who is now the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Smith avoided another fine in Week 5, when he was kicked out of a contest versus the Tennessee Titans after he pushed a referee who was trying to breakup a scrum.
Depending on how tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the 2-3 Detroit Lions and 4-1 Chicago Bears turns out, Minnesota might head into Week 8 at the top of the NFC North standings.
• Rookie Michael Floyd caught one pass for seven yards in Arizona’s loss at Minnesota. It was the fifth straight game the former Irish star had at least one reception, bringing his season total to eight catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals (4-3) have lost three consecutive weeks and are a game behind 5-2 San Francisco in the NFC West.
• For the first time since a Oct. 23, 2011, against Green Bay, Minnesota second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph did not register a reception in a game. Rudolph has 25 catches for 225 yards and five touchdowns this season. The squad’s victory over the Cardinals did require Rudolph’s aid blocking at the line of scrimmage, and running back Adrian Peterson was able to rush for 153 yards and a score.
• New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck racked up six tackles and a sack in 27-23 win over Washington. The Giants improved to 5-2 as they try and defend their Super Bowl title. Tuck is up to 26 total stops, with just the one sack, in his eighth NFL season.
Name (Years At Notre Dame) Pos. Current Team
Armando Allen (2007-10) RB Chicago Bears
Jordan Black (1999-2002) OT Washington Redskins
Robert Blanton (2008-11) DB Minnesota Vikings
Sergio Brown (2006-09) S Indianapolis Colts
David Bruton (2005-08) S Denver Broncos
John Carlson (2003-07) TE Minnesota Vikings
Jimmy Clausen (2007-09) QB Carolina Panthers
Jeff Faine (1999-2002) C Cincinnati Bengals
Anthony Fasano (2002-05) TE Miami Dolphins
Darius Fleming* (2008-11) LB San Francisco 49ers
Michael Floyd (2008-11) WR Arizona Cardinals
Ryan Grant (2001-04) RB Washington Redskins
Jonas Gray (2008-11) RB Miami Dolphins
Ryan Harris (2003-06) OT Houston Texans
Robert Hughes^ (2007-10) RB Indianapolis Colts
J.J. Jansen (2004-07) LS Carolina Panthers
Derek Landri (2002-06) DT Philadelphia Eagles
Trevor Laws* (2003-07) DT St. Louis Rams
Kyle McCarthy* (2005-09) S Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Olsen (2006-09) OL New Orleans Saints
Brady Quinn (2003-06) QB Kansas City Chiefs
Trevor Robinson (2008-11) OG Cincinnati Bengals
Kyle Rudolph (2008-10) TE Minnesota Vikings
Harrison Smith (2007-11) S Minnesota Vikings
John Sullivan (2003-07) C Minnesota Vikings
Golden Tate (2007-09) WR Seattle Seahawks
Justin Tuck (2001-04) DE New York Giants
Ian Williams (2007-10) DT San Francisco 49ers
Sam Young (2006-09) OT Buffalo Bills
Tom Zbikowski (2003-07) S Indianapolis Colts
^ Practice squad member; * suffered a season-ending injury