Bombers mending fences

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Charles Roberts is likely to miss the start of training camp, but not for the reason you might think.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back, who told the Sun last week that he wanted to be traded because the team was pursuing suspended NFL tailback Onterrio Smith, is destined to be a late camp arrival because he's getting married.

Veterans must report no later than next Saturday, but Bombers president and CEO Lyle Bauer said yesterday that Roberts might be late.

"He might be, but that would be late with permission," said Bauer. "He talked to me about that months ago.

"It's been in the works for quite some time. His stuff was all set, as far as his wedding dates and that, well before the schedule was done. And we knew that."

Bauer and Roberts spoke on Tuesday. It was the first time since Roberts' trade demand that he had contacted someone in the Bomber organization, and Bauer said everything has been settled.

"No, Charlie did not ask me to be traded," said Bauer. "We talked about his forthcoming wedding and things along those lines.

"We also talked about improving the football team and what role another running back would play. We do have to replace the Keith Stokes situation."

Bomber GM Brendan Taman, whom Roberts attacked personally in his interview with the Sun last week, reiterated yesterday that Smith, a former Minnesota Viking, likely will be signing with the Bombers any day now.

"I talked to him today, and he got a package we sent to him," said Taman. "We sent him a CD with some game film on it, so he had a chance to look at it and got excited about the style of play.

"We're still educating him, and he's educating us."

Roberts did not respond to an e-mail from the Sun yesterday.

The Bombers want Smith, who is currently suspended by the NFL for failing its substance abuse policy three times, to return kicks and assume a part-time role in the offence.

That would leave Roberts, a four-time all-star at his position, as the No. 1 tailback, and it might even open bigger holes for him on the field.

"Sometimes things will be said that, in retrospect, maybe shouldn't be said," said Bauer. "... It's his job, and he's got every intention of keeping it.

"Once he sits back and takes a look ... the intent is to improve our football team, improve his situation and give us a chance to get back in the playoffs and do what we need to do."

Roberts should be happy that Bauer is an old football player. A part of the former offensive lineman was actually glad that Roberts got his knickers tied in a knot.

"Charlie's an emotional guy, and he's competitor," said Bauer. "You know what? If he reacts like that, that's good, because that just tells me that he wants it and he believes it's his job.

"I do know one thing about Charlie Roberts, though. No matter what he says or does, when he straps it on, there ain't nothing like it. You can have lots of patience for guys like that."

This isn't the first time Roberts has spouted off through the media. He told the Sun in February 2003 that the Bombers should either "pay me or trade me."

He signed a contract extension 33 days later.


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