Onterrio far from a lock

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

GM Brendan Taman has a good feeling that suspended NFL running back Onterrio Smith is going to sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Smith's agent says there's a long way to go before that happens.

"There hasn't been any activity whatsoever," C.J. Laboy said yesterday from northern California. "Right now we're just trying to gauge not only (Smith's) interest, but the interest of the CFL as well.

"Obviously there's a great interest there, but at this point nothing's really gone on, other than basic conversation."

Smith was suspended for the entire 2005 NFL season after his third violation of the league's substance abuse policy. The Minnesota Vikings then released him last month when the NFL informed them that Smith wouldn't be reinstated until at least October.

NEGOTIATION LIST

So Taman put Smith on the Bomber negotiation list immediately and learned that he might be interested in coming north.

That move, however, caused some shockwaves, as Winnipeg's starting tailback, Charles Roberts, told the Sun earlier this week that he would like to be traded.

The Bombers claim Smith would be coming to Winnipeg not to replace Roberts, but to complement him.

The man caught in the middle of this is Laboy, who, coincidentally, played college ball against Roberts in the late 1990s. Roberts played for Sacramento State, while Laboy suited up for St. Mary's College.

"I know him very, very well," said Laboy.

"I played outside linebacker-defensive end, and he obviously was a running back. He's a stud."

Laboy wasn't aware that the Bombers are insisting that Roberts will remain the No. 1 tailback and that his client would be used to return kicks and have a somewhat limited role in the offence should he decide to sign north of the border.

"This is news to me, because we haven't even had those conversations, but I'm glad to know that now," said Laboy.

"Charles is a great back. I know first-hand from experience."

When asked if Smith would want to be the starting tailback in Winnipeg, Laboy said "he has that ability, which is more than obvious. We're just trying to see what's best for both parties.

"Anything could happen, to be perfectly honest with you."

LATE HITS: LB Kyries Hebert, whom Winnipeg plucked off waivers after the Ottawa Renegades dispersal draft, hasn't yet cashed a $25,000 bonus cheque the Bombers paid him recently. The Bombers have, however, paid the CFL the $40,000 bonus that Hebert collected in January from Renegades owner Bernie Glieberman. Hebert is trying to get the CFL Players' Association to have his CFL contract voided so he can sign in the NFL ... Talks between the Bombers and import OL Dan Goodspeed have picked up. There had been friction during negotiations earlier in the off-season.


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