Smith gets axed by Blue

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

Mike Kelly called Joe Smith yesterday to inform the running back that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were moving on without him.

"He said 'OK,' and hung up," Kelly, the Bombers head coach, said yesterday.

Smith, a laid-back eccentric who usually goes with the flow, was not happy.

"Who would be?" Kelly asked. "You're told that you're fired, in essence. You have to be prepared for any kind of reaction."

Smith, 29, was the most notable of the 12 players the Bombers released yesterday to get down to their league-mandated 46-man roster. Seven of those players will be asked to stay on the practice roster, which should be confirmed today, but Smith won't be one of them.

Kelly said Smith, the CFL's leading rusher in 2007 with the B.C. Lions, didn't gut out a calf injury that limited his practice time in training camp and resulted in his playing in neither exhibition game. Smith appeared healthy enough to suit up for Tuesday's pre-season finale in Montreal, but Kelly opted to leave him at home.

"We gave Joe plenty of opportunity," Kelly said. "He was at practice every day. He could've fought through some things."

A CFL source said the Bombers had already paid a $45,000 roster bonus to Smith, but not even that could save him.

The Bombers tried to trade Smith, whose wife is expecting their first child later this year, but there were no takers since teams are too busy cutting players this time of year. Kelly expects him to resurface somewhere in the CFL.

In the end, though, the pre-season play of rookie running back Lavarus Giles is what made it quite easy for the Bombers to send the more expensive and older Smith packing. Giles had 238 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries in Winnipeg's exhibition contests.

"You saw that run (a 77-yard touchdown against Montreal) the other night," Kelly said. "I haven't seen very many guys in this league that can run down the middle of the field and make people miss and change their pursuit angles like he did in that run."

Giles, a 23-year-old from Benoit, Miss., is one of three import running backs who cracked the final roster along with incumbent starter Fred Reid and rookie Yvenson Bernard. Kelly said the Bombers will likely put two of the three on the 42-man roster for games.

The Bombers acquired Smith from the Lions last September for franchise rushing leader Charles Roberts. The Louisiana Tech product had 381 yards on 69 carries and two touchdowns, but Reid was featured more prominently in the offensive attack.

When the Bombers got Smith to renegotiate his contract last month, Kelly said he was looking forward to having someone like the 6-foot-2, 224-pound power back who could move the pile and pound the rock after Labour Day.

"We've got people that can move it and run around it and keep running until no one catches them," Kelly said. "So we'll see. There's always a roll of the dice, but that's what makes this fun, too."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

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MAKIN' MOVES

Bomber transactions yesterday:

RELEASED

RB Joe Smith

CB Ronyell Whitaker

DB Jasper Johnson

DB Patrick Body

WR Terry Firr

OL Jean-Francois Morin-Roberge

OL Matt O'Meara

OL Thaddeus Coleman

DB Nick Kordic

DE Montez Murphy

DE Chase Ortiz

LB Neil Ternovatsky

INJURED

CB James Johnson

S Steven Holness

DT Tyrone Williams

DISABLED

LB Siddeeq Shabazz

SUSPENDED

DT Aaron McConnell


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