Smith suffered a sprained right knee and limped off the field in the second quarter of Minnesota's impressive 46-36 win over Dallas on Thursday. An MRI taken Friday revealed that Smith had sprained a knee ligament.
"He'll probably miss two games, but no more than that," said Vikings coach Dennis Green Friday at a media briefing. "Robert is a big loss for us."
Smith rushed for 46 yards on eight carries Thursday to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season before he was injured. Smith attempted to change direction on a running play and turned his ankle while Dallas safety Darren Woodson tackled him. Leroy Hoard replaced Smith and scored on second-half runs of 12 and 50 yards.
Hoard, who is in his ninth NFL season and third as a backup with the Vikings, will start in Smith's absence.
"Leroy's been a solid backup for us," said Green. "He slashes, runs hard and is very dependable."
The Vikings (11-1) own the best record in the NFC and are closing in on their first Central Division title since 1994. Minnesota has already clinched its sixth playoff berth in seven years under Green. The Vikings will host Chicago in their next game Dec. 6 and play at Baltimore the following week.
| Robert Smith has 1,01 yards and six touchdowns this season. (AP) |
Minnesota's dynamic offense has produced an NFC-high 394 points, an average of 32.8 points per game. Quarterback Randall Cunningham, who has filled in for injured starter Brad Johnson, leads the league in passer rating, completing 61 percent of his passes for 2,565 yards and 23 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.
Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Jake Reed form the most dangerous trio of receivers in the NFL. Although Reed underwent back surgery earlier this week and is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, the Vikings' deep passing game did not skip a beat in Thursday's win over the Cowboys. Carter had seven catches for 135 yards, including a 54-yard score, and Moss caught three passes -- all touchdowns -- for 163 yards.
The 26-year-old Smith has provided a strong running game to complement the passing attack, rushing for 1,013 yards and six touchdowns on 215 carries this season. He also has 24 catches for 241 yards and two scores.
The Vikings re-signed Smith to a five-year, $25 million contract after he rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards in 1997. The six-year veteran had struggled with injuries through most of his career before he played in a career-high 14 games last year.
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