Taman eyes Whiz kid

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

The Original Whizzinator could be coming to Winnipeg.

OK, so that's not the real nickname of running back Onterrio Smith. But it is one of the things that made him famous.

Make that, infamous.

The talented 25-year-old is under suspension from the NFL for failing three drug tests. But he really made headlines last year when he was stopped at the Minneapolis airport with a device designed to beat tests.

Called the Original Whizzinator, the kit included a fake penis, and while Smith was never charged with an offence, he was the butt of jokes from coast to coast.

'NOT A P.R. STUNT'

Yesterday, Blue Bomber GM Brendan Taman was smiling about the very real chance Smith could join the Bombers this season.

"It's better than 50-50, is my gut right now," Taman said. "It's not a P.R. stunt."

Here's the deal: released by the Minnesota Vikings this week, Smith's suspension prevents him from signing with another NFL team before October. But Smith doesn't want to wait. So his agent began contacting CFL teams, and the Bombers were the first to place him on their negotiation list.

Unlike Toronto's recent move to place Ricky Williams, another troubled back, on their list, Taman's move isn't a long shot.

The big difference: Williams remains under contract to the Miami Dolphins, while Smith is free to come north. And interested. Taman and Smith's agent have already talked contract, and will continue to do so next week.

A fourth-round NFL draft pick in 2003, Smith led the Vikings in rushing in '04, and was poised to be their starter again last season when he was handed a one-year suspension for a third failed drug test.

The Bombers are hoping he's finally got the message, and is ready to clean up his act.

"At the end of the day, they're not going to grade me on the quality of kid we have," Taman said. "They'll grade me on the number of wins. He's a legitimate, quality NFL back. He's fast -- 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, and a guy that runs a 4.4 (40-yard time), legit."

Of course, the Bombers have one of the CFL's top running backs in Charles Roberts.

"This isn't done to take Charles off the field," Taman said. "It's to enhance the offence. This would help Charles even more. To have him and Charles together -- wow!."

ROSTER FILLING OUT

The Bombers announced the signing of a pair of Canadians yesterday: D-lineman Adrian Baird and O-lineman Ryan Bisson.

Baird spent last season on the Ottawa Renegades practice roster, while the Bombers drafted Bisson out of Northwood University in Michigan a year ago. O-linemen Corey Annett and John Feugill were released.


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