Onterrio's one shot

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

He failed three chances at staying clean in the NFL, but he'll probably get just one to crack the lineup of the Blue Bombers.

Tomorrow night in Montreal, in Winnipeg's final pre-season game, running back Onterrio Smith either makes this team or cuts himself from it.

At least, that's the impression you get in talking with Bomber head coach Doug Berry.

It's also the impression Smith has.

"I would think so," Smith said yesterday. "Because they didn't see me last week."

The former Minnesota Viking, signed with much fanfare a couple weeks before training camp, missed the first pre-season game with a foot injury.

It was Smith's second setback of training camp, after he showed up overweight.

It was easy to make jokes about the guy at the time, what with the extra pounds packed into all the NFL baggage he brought to town.

But the 25-year-old obviously has another side to him, a side with a decent helping of discipline, it seems.

Despite the foot injury, Smith has worked himself much closer to his playing weight of 225 pounds.

"A lot of work out here with nobody watching," he explained. "No reporters. I won't say I've ever had to work that hard. I feel lighter. My foot's doin' better. I'm able to make cuts. Accelerate. That's all I need as a running back."

Actually, somebody did notice Smith's effort. His head coach.

"I've been in here every morning at 7:00, and he's on the treadmill, working out," Berry said. "Oh yeah, he's dropped at least a decade's worth of weight."

The question is, will we remember his Blue Bomber stint for the next decade? Or will Smith be forgotten 10 minutes after Saturday's final cuts?

30 MINUTES

It'll all come down to about 30 minutes, tomorrow in Montreal.

Smith is expected to play most of the second half, after starter Charles Roberts gets the bulk of the first half action. He'll also return kickoffs.

And if Smith wants something to shoot for, he can start with this: about 80 yards on eight carries.

Those are the numbers running back Henri Childs put up last week.

"He's competing with Henri Childs," Berry said. "He's got something that's already been established. If he has 10 carries for four yards, that's not going to do it. But if he has 10 carries for 140, that's going to be totally different. Then there's everything in between."

This pro football gig's a funny thing, isn't it?

A guy can come here with an NFL pedigree, 4.4 speed and a rare combination of quickness and power, and the circumstances dictate his future in the CFL could come down to a half-hour performance with other second-stringers trying to nail down a job.

"It's not nerve-wracking," Smith said. "I've been through every situation you could be in. I've had my back against the wall, comin' from the bottom to the top. It really don't faze me. This is natural to me. Second nature."

That's what Bomber GM Brendan Taman was counting on when he went after Smith the moment the Vikings released him.

Taman is convinced the guy can make an impact.

If Smith doesn't deliver tomorrow, it'll set up an interesting discussion between the GM and the head coach.

Ask Smith how he likes his chances of winning a job, and he doesn't miss a beat.

"I'd bet the house," he said.

You get the impression the guy has something to prove. That the flabby guy we saw a couple of weeks ago isn't the real Onterrio Smith.

It's a second chance to make a first impression.

But his one-and-only chance to make a lasting one.


Videos

Photos