Smith sacked despite potential

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:54 PM ET

In the end, time ran out for Akili Smith, and he was ushered out of the Calgary Stampeders fold.

After nearly three-quarters of a season -- and a pair of dismal starts with Henry Burris sidelined -- Smith was officially released by the Stampeders yesterday, although word of the cut came Tuesday night.

After waiting to see if the former third-overall NFL pick could grasp the CFL game, head coach Tom Higgins said the club couldn't wait any longer.

"He would still need another year in which to be groomed, and it's time we don't have," Higgins said. "Tough decision because he's a consummate pro and a nice young man.

"He did everything we asked him to do. He spent an inordinate amount of time watching film. He spent time out on the practice field. The conversation was professional, and he understood where we were coming from."

Smith, a NCAA star before jumping to the NFL with huge expectations -- which he fell short of -- struggled mightily with the Stamps.

He saw action in three games and completed only 22 of 47 passes for 219 yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions. The club repeatedly said he was struggling to grasp the more wide-open CFL game, and he didn't pass balls quick enough.

His last start, Monday against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, was a disaster. Smith guided the team to only two first downs in the opening half and completed only four of 12 passes for 42 yards before being yanked in favour of Ben Sankey, who proved to be the better QB on the afternoon.

Burris will return to the roster this week from his dislocated shoulder and will likely start. The club has Sankey and third-stringer Barrick Nealy on the depth chart.

Having worked so closely with Smith all season, Burris said it was hard to see him cut.

"Akili is such a great guy and a hard worker," Burris said. "With time, he could have been something special. But that shows you the toughness of being a quarterback in this league.

"That's just how that game is."

The Stamps also released quarterback Derek Devine and offensive lineman Qasim Mitchell from their roster.


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