Former Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith, who had hoped to resurrect his flagging career in the CFL while completing a one-year suspension for repeat violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy, was released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday night.
Smith's release came just five days after Winnipeg general manager Brandan Taman had all but guaranteed him a roster spot. CFL teams had to reduce their rosters to the regular-season limit of 42 by Saturday. The former Vikings starter was one of 21 players the Blue Bombers set free.
"Toronto's suspended NFL guy [Ricky Williams] gets all the accolades, but our suspended NFL guy, despite all the baggage and the [injured] foot, is pretty darned good, too," Taman said.
Apparently, he wasn't good enough.
Being released by the Blue Bombers is a stunning setback for Smith, who is eligible for reinstatement to the NFL in early October, provided he meets all of the league's stipulations. It is believed Smith remained in the NFL drug program, even after signing with Winnipeg, so that he would have a chance at some point to play in the league again.
Williams has stayed in the program, which means he is subject to 10 random drug tests per month.
Smith, 25, did not distinguish himself while with Winnipeg. He reported to training camp with a foot injury and missed the first week of practice and the first of the Blue Bombers' two preseason games. He returned to practice last week and played in Thursday night's preseason game, but his performance -- two carries for seven yards and a fumble -- was disappointing.
The Vikings' fourth-round choice in the 2003 draft following college stints at Tennessee and Oregon, which included some off-field problems and his dismissal from the Vols' squad, Smith ran for 1,123 yards and seven touchdowns on 231 carries in 2003-2004. He also had 51 receptions for 523 yards and two touchdowns.
But in 2004, Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the substance abuse policy. In summer 2005, he was stopped at the Minneapolis airport and a search of his baggage revealed "The Original Whizzinator," a device designed to beat drug tests. Less than a month later, the NFL suspended Smith for a year for another violation of the substance abuse policy.
Smith was released by the Vikings nearly two months ago and signed with Winnipeg last month.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.