Roberts wants out
Bombers look at Whiz Kid
By PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun
Don't look now, but Blink can't see being in the same backfield as the Whiz Kid.
Winnipeg Blue Bomber running back Charles Roberts isn't impressed with the team's efforts to sign suspended NFL running back Onterrio Smith.
In fact, the CFL's leading rusher last season is so put off by what he calls a "slap in the face," he wants out.
"If that is the direction they want to go in ... they should make him the man and trade me up out of there," Roberts told the Sun yesterday. "I have no problem with going elsewhere."
That's in sharp contrast to what Roberts has previously said: that he couldn't see playing for any other team.
And it shows how hurt he feels that the Bombers would pursue another back.
Smith, currently suspended by the NFL for failing drug tests, was released by the Minnesota Vikings last week.
The Bombers immediately placed him on their negotiation list, and began talks with his agent.
Minnesota's leading rusher in 2004, Smith could, potentially, be a star in the CFL. He's a 5-foot-10, 220-pound speedster who can also return kicks and catch passes out of the backfield.
The 25-year-old also made headlines last year, when he was stopped at the Minneapolis airport with a device called the Original Whizzinator, designed to beat drug tests.
Roberts says he has nothing against Smith, who, like Roberts, is from Sacramento, Calif.
But after five consecutive seasons as a CFL all-star, he's not ready to share time in the backfield.
"I know they have to do what they feel is necessary to win, especially with the Grey Cup coming up," he said. "But me being in the prime of my career and never been faced with this type of situation before, I would rather not.
"I'm not trying to be selfish. I hope people don't take it the wrong way. But if they were in my shoes, after five years of steady play, you don't want to have a lesser role."
Told of Roberts' comments, Bomber GM Brendan Taman couldn't suppress a chuckle.
"We haven't had one rep on the field yet and he's saying (that)... he's entertaining, I'll say that," Taman said. "The bottom line in this whole thing is whatever gives us the best chance to win. If Charles has to run for 400 yards and we go 16-2, so be it. If he rushes for 2,000 yards and we go 4-14, I don't like that idea."
Taman says Roberts will remain the team's top running back, regardless of whether or not it signs Smith.
But Roberts was unimpressed.
"Brendan don't run the offence," Roberts said. "Brendan is in the front office. As you see with Kyries Hebert, Brendan doesn't really care how a player feels."
Hebert is trying to get out of his Bomber contract so he can try the NFL.
This isn't the first time Roberts has clashed with management.
It appears to be the most serious, though, particularly when you look at his comments about Taman, the person who discovered him back in 2001.
"I don't know if he's ever strapped on the football pads and knows the real emotion that a player has," Roberts said of the GM. "
I want a certain amount of carries. I want to be a 100-yard rusher. That's just my expectations."
Roberts isn't enamoured with new head coach Doug Berry's plan, either, to employ a more wide-open passing attack, often using five receivers and just one running back.
"With the direction the offence is going, my touches seemingly were going to be down this year as it is," Roberts said.
"Circumstances come about where you feel like you've done as much as you can for the team. I think it would be better for both sides if I were moved."
It sounds like he shouldn't hold his breath.
"He ain't going nowhere," Taman said. "I can assure you of that."
This one should be interesting.