ONTERRIO CROSSES BORDER INTO MANITOBA TO REVIVE TROUBLED CAREER
Ex-Viking Smith Under NFL Suspension
Onterrio Smith is relocating to Manitoba while the Canadian Football League awaits confirmation that Ricky Williams is moving to Ontario.
Smith, a former running back with the Minnesota Vikings, agreed to a two-year contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers yesterday in the hopes of reviving his National Football League career.
The 25-year-old was suspended last year for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He was caught at the Minneapolis airport carrying The Original Whizzinator, a device designed to beat drug tests.
The Vikings released Smith last month. His NFL suspension expires on Oct. 31.
"My skill is still there," Smith told reporters in a telephone conference call yesterday. "It's just a case of coming up there and learning the system. I've already been checking through the rule book and getting a feel for the game. It's brand new to me but its football so I'll be able to adjust on the run."
Smith said he had "no problem with whatever my role is" and that he wasn't "looking to come in and step on any toes."
Veteran Blue Bombers running back Charles Roberts has already expressed his disappointment that team officials would sign Smith, who was dismissed from the University of Tennessee in 2000 for alcohol and marijuana abuse.
"I know that Onterrio is a good kid who is looking to get his career on track," Blue Bombers general manager Brendan Taman said. "He's never been convicted of anything and doesn't have a criminal record. He's here to play and help us win games."
While Smith will join Winnipeg in time for the opening of training camp, the Toronto Argonauts are continuing their pursuit of Williams, the highly-talented, but equally-troubled Miami Dolphins running back who has failed four NFL drug tests.
Argos officials have stated they would like to meet with the 28-year-old to determine if he would agree to their terms of employment, which would include mandatory drug testing.
But before meeting with Williams, the Argonauts must receive permission from the Dolphins. According to Argos president Keith Pelley, that permission has yet to be given.
"We're still waiting. Nothing has changed," Pelley said yesterday.
The prospect of the CFL having two star running backs in the East Division has both fans and administrators contemplating the possibilities.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats football adviser Mike McCarthy said anyone thinking that Williams would struggle on the CFL's bigger, wider field would be in for a surprise.
"On our field there's just more room for him to run. He's a beast," McCarthy said.
"I would say there hasn't been a player of this stature in the CFL since Rocket Ismail."
Taman said that having Smith and Williams in the CFL at the same time would make for great viewing and competition.
"It's pretty bizarre and interesting. Normally, we wouldn't see two players like this," Taman said. "But if they're both out there, it'll fun seeing what they can do."