Whiz kid signs on

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are hoping Onterrio Smith can help win them a Grey Cup.

Smith, meanwhile, is hoping the Bombers can get him back to the NFL.

Original Whizzinators and positive drug tests aside, it looks like it could be a match made in heaven.

The Bombers officially signed the suspended NFL running back yesterday to a two-year contract, including an option. Smith, 25, will arrive in Winnipeg on Tuesday for the start of the team's rookie camp on Wednesday.

"I produce a talent that's pretty rare," Smith said yesterday from Marina del Ray, Calif. "I'm not saying that out of arrogance or cockiness or anything like that. I honestly believe that I really am talented.

"... It's a great opportunity for me to come in and get some football back under my belt before reinstatement to the NFL."

Bomber GM Brendan Taman believes Smith is too good to play in the CFL, and that's why they signed him despite three positive NFL drug tests and the fact their No. 1 tailback, Charles Roberts, is upset that NFL-calibre competition is coming to town.

CLEANED UP HIS ACT

As for the marijuana use that earned him a year-long NFL suspension last May, Smith claims to have cleaned up his act.

"I still get tested by the NFL four times a month," he said. "Where I stay at now, I still attend meetings, so, yeah, I've cleaned up."

Smith's year-long suspension was slated to end next Friday, but the NFL told his agent last month he wouldn't be reinstated until October. Smith doesn't know why his suspension was extended.

The Minnesota Vikings released Smith to let him pursue a CFL career, but it's believed the NFL will continue to randomly test him while he's with the Bombers.

Taman said it's unlikely the Bombers will test Smith themselves (the CFL doesn't have a substance abuse policy), but the GM did admit Smith will be on a relatively short leash.

"If he comes into practice every three days and he's half-buzzed and he doesn't know what he's doing, well, obviously he's not going to be with our club," said Taman.

The GM doesn't think Smith would be as infamous as he is if he hadn't got caught last April with The Original Whizzinator, a artificial penis designed to beat drug tests.

Taman compared Smith to Mike Sellers, who revived his career with the Bombers in 2002 and 2003 and returned to the NFL in 2004 with the Washington Redskins. It should be noted, however, that Sellers' only offence in the NFL was getting arrested on drug-related charges that were later dropped.

Smith has much more baggage, but Taman believes he is ready to turn his life around, too. The GM also did background checks on Smith's attitude in general and heard nothing but good things.

And if he plays half as well in Canada as he did in the NFL, well, Taman will certainly be fine with that. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound California native appeared in 27 games for the Vikings in 2003 and 2004, rushing for 1,123 yards and seven touchdowns.

"If he comes up here and has a pretty good year, we're not going to see him here next year," said Taman.

Smith has also been named in a civil lawsuit in which a Minnesota woman accused him of sexual assault in 2004, but police didn't lay charges and Taman is under the belief that the accusations are baseless.

"It's not going to interfere with him being with our team," said Taman.


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