If Joe Smith puts as much effort into his job as he does into getting away from it all in the off-season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will get a solid return on their investment.
The 29-year-old running back, who this week signed a contract extension for two years and an option, was at his eccentric best yesterday when asked about the off-season moves made by the team that traded for him last September.
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound bruiser knew the Blue and Gold had made a coaching change, but the identity of new boss Mike Kelly was news to him.
"Kelly ... now which coach is that? Is that the head coach?" Smith asked. "I should know this. I'm going to write this down right now. Mike. Kelly."
Smith, the former B.C. Lion who had 381 yards and two touchdowns on 69 carries for the Bombers after being acquired for Charles Roberts, was also unaware that Kevin Glenn is no longer his team's starting quarterback.
"After the season I just like to get away and do my own thing and enjoy the time I have off," he said. "I don't know who we signed or who didn't sign back or who got traded or who they brought in from other teams. I'll see what happened when I get there."
The Louisiana native has been busy gardening, fishing and painting his Houston home during the off-season. He is getting a baby room ready because his wife, Andrea, is expecting their first child at the end of the CFL season. She plans to give birth in Winnipeg.
Smith, the CFL's leading rusher in 2007, had two years remaining on the contract he brought with him from B.C., but it was paying him approximately $150,000 per season. Considering he'll split time in the Bomber backfield with fellow tailback Fred Reid, he no doubt took a pay cut to make his salary more cap-friendly.
"That's what we're trying to do with everybody, make everything more cap-friendly and tie down some of these guys for an extended period," Kelly said from Philadelphia. "We don't want to get caught like we did, with having quality players all be up for free agency at the same time."
Kelly is looking forward to the return of Thunder and Lightning.
"When I think of having to play six games after Labour Day in Winnipeg, you need a back like Joe to bang in there when the weather gets bad," he said.
The Bombers also announced Bradley Pierson's signing yesterday. The former North Carolina State punter had a 37.2-yard punting average with the Wolfpack and is reportedly an excellent directional kicker. The 22-year-old can also placekick.
Pierson will compete against incumbent Alexis Serna and 39-year-old Canadian Dan Giancola for the kicking roles.
"We'd like to be in a situation where one guy handles everything," Kelly said. "That certainly is a luxury. So if we have two doing it, we're going to find the best two that can play off each other's strengths and weaknesses and take it from there."
LATE HIT: The Bomber Store is getting into the football equipment business. Not only are the two Winnipeg outlets one-stop shopping for everything Blue and Gold, but they are now selling football cleats, mouthguards, skull caps, arm bands, tinted visor shields and eye black.