Vikings Stand Behind Hoard

The Minnesota Vikings are standing behind their most effective running back, Leroy Hoard, who was picked up on a drug possession charge in Florida over the weekend.

"We know that those things happen when you get on the road during a bye week," coach Dennis Green said Monday, adding that he saw no reason to bench Hoard for Sunday's game against San Diego.

Hoard, who joked about staying out of trouble as he left the team's Winter Park complex last Thursday, was arrested outside a Miami Beach nightclub early Saturday and charged with disorderly conduct and possession of a controlled substance.

Police said they found what they believe to be the illegal synthetic drug "ecstasy" in Hoard's pocket when they were arresting him on disorderly conduct charges following a fight with his girlfriend.

The cream-colored pills had a marijuana leaf stamped on one side, Miami Beach Police Lt. Robert Dorigo said. Hoard, who has been bothered by knee problems all season, told police they were painkillers.

The pills were placed in an evidence room to be sent to the Miami Dade County lab sometime this week. The results will be available by the time Hoard returns to Florida for a court appearance on Dec. 10.

Hoard refused to discuss the matter Monday.

"You know better than that," Hoard said. "And I'd appreciate it if you don't bother me about it anymore."

Hoard's agent, Stephen Zucker, was out of town Monday and didn't return a phone message left with an associate at his Chicago office.

Green said Hoard told him he was innocent of the felony drug charge, which is punishable by a year in state prison.

"I'll stand by him, obviously. He feels very strongly about his innocence," Green said. "And so we'll let it take its course."

Green said Hoard would definitely play against the Chargers.

"Leroy gave me his feeling that he's innocent

  • I trust Leroy, I've always had a lot of confidence in him,"
  • Green said.

    Hoard, the Vikings' short-yardage specialist and replacement for the oft-injured Robert Smith, has rushed for 416 yards and four touchdowns this season. He started three games after Smith had a hernia operation last month.

    On Monday, Hoard didn't seem dejected over his run-in with the law. He was his usual jocular self, graciously taking ribbing from some of his teammates as they returned from their weekend away.

    Cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock said he was confident Hoard will be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

    "I don't know what happened down there or whatever, but Leroy's a standup person," Hitchcocsaid. "He's one of the more standup people here as far as doing the right thing.

    "If you listen to the story and you get all the details, I bet it turns out to be a funny story and maybe a little overblown," Hitchcock said.

    The Vikings, tied atop the NFC Central with Tampa Bay and Detroit at 6-4, have had an abundance of distractions this year.

    First-round draft pick Dimitrius Underwood walked out on the team after just one practice and cornerback Ramos McDonald quit at midseason after losing his starting job to a rookie.

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