Roberts shouldn't feel slighted: Onterrio

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:17 AM ET

Onterrio Smith is well aware that Charles Roberts is not a happy camper.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers' pursuit of Smith, which was consummated yesterday when the suspended NFL running back signed a contract, had Roberts up in arms.

As the Bombers' No. 1 tailback for the past four seasons, Roberts felt the quest for Smith's services was a slap in the face. The two-time CFL rushing leader even told the Sun last week he wanted to be traded, although he didn't ask Bomber president and CEO Lyle Bauer to deal him when they talked earlier this week.

Roberts couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, but Smith said the five-time CFL all-star has nothing to worry about.

"He's a real good running back," said Smith. "At the same time, he shouldn't feel mad or disrespected or anything like that towards the organization there by coming to get me.

"I'm just coming in to play my role and help win ball games."

The Bombers have said repeatedly Roberts is the No. 1 tailback -- no matter what. They plan for Smith to return kicks and, like Keith Stokes did in 2006, assume a supplemental role in the offence.

"We're not going to have a great talent sitting on our bench watching the play go by," said Bomber GM Brendan Taman.

No problem with role

"The role that we discussed, I have no problem with it," said Smith. "I've never been a guy to go in demanding that I start. I've always been the guy that goes in and works toward starting. To get an opportunity to just come and play, I'm excited about that."

Smith said he'll need a little bit of time to get back into playing shape after 16 months off, but he'll be ready to fill any role the Bombers ask of him.

"If they need me to step in to a more offensive role ... then that's what it's going to be," he said. "If it's enabling us to win ball games, then hey."

Roberts is getting married next Saturday, which is also the day veterans are supposed to report for the start of training camp.

Roberts is scheduled to arrive in Winnipeg next Sunday night, but Taman has a hunch he might take his time as a form of protest.

Even though Smith's presence in Winnipeg is now official, Taman isn't worried about Roberts holding out.

"Charles is too competitive to just walk away," said Taman. "I know he's going to show up and play hard, and that's good for us.

"And this might even drive him to play harder, quite honestly."

While Smith views his CFL venture as a one-year pit stop on the path back to the NFL, Taman hopes to see Roberts and Smith co-existing beyond 2006.

"I'm hoping (Smith) can come up here and enjoy it and say, 'I don't need to go back down south. I'm happy up here.'"

ROSTER WATCH: Taman technically has two training camp roster spots left to fill, but he likely will have three more available by next weekend. QB Tee Martin won't be at training camp on time if at all, LB Kyries Hebert's waiver-claim appeal is going to arbitration, and OL Dan Gyetvai isn't expected to pass his physical.

Taman expects to have 82 players in camp.

PARTY ON: Montreal's Olympic Stadium will play host to the 2008 Grey Cup, the league announced yesterday.


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