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Vikings' Onterrio Smith suspended for 1 year

Vikings running back Onterrio Smith, whose tumultuous offseason already had introduced "The Original Whizzinator" to the vocabulary of Twin Cities sports fans, was notified by the National Football League that he faces a yearlong suspension for a recent third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, two league sources confirmed Thursday.
/ Source: KARE11.com

Vikings running back Onterrio Smith, whose tumultuous offseason already had introduced "The Original Whizzinator" to the vocabulary of Twin Cities sports fans, was notified by the National Football League that he faces a yearlong suspension for a recent third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, two league sources confirmed Thursday.

Smith has five days to appeal the decision, but Vikings coach Mike Tice acted quickly Thursday morning when he excused Smith from the rest of the Vikings' offseason conditioning program and three more developmental camps in June.

"He'll be gone indefinitely," Tice said. "I really can't speak about any reasons why [he's gone] or when he'll be back. I think it's in the league's hands, and we'll just leave it at that."

Smith would become the 18th NFL player since 1995 to be suspended for a full season.

He would forfeit his $380,000 salary, and any contact with the Vikings would be limited to medical treatment.

Smith, 24, would have to appeal directly to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue for reinstatement at the end of the suspension. Smith, whose salary would not count against the Vikings' 2005 cap, could be released after the suspension.

The two league sources insist that Smith's latest violation of the substance abuse policy is not related to the April 21 incident at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Smith was detained that day with The Original Whizzinator, a kit with a prosthetic penis, plastic bladder and dried urine that is designed to circumvent drug tests.

It's still unclear whether Smith actually tested positive for a third violation.

A person with knowledge of the situation said Smith told the team that he missed a scheduled drug test by the league, which would constitute a violation.

According to the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player in Stage Three of the substance abuse program receives notice of a third violation by either testing positive or failing "to comply with his treatment plan, as determined by the medical director."

Smith was subject to unannounced testing up to 10 times a year after a second violation resulted in a four-game suspension last season.

Smith was not available for comment Thursday. He wasn't at the final day of the four-day developmental practice. He also missed Tuesday's practice for personal reasons.

Smith's attorney, David Cornwell, said, "I cannot comment on Onterrio's status in the substance abuse program, and in the event it is appropriate to report anything regarding his status in the program, it will come from the league office."

Cornwell wouldn't say whether Smith plans to appeal.

Michael Signora, an NFL spokesman, said the league had no comment. The league typically doesn't comment until after the appeals process when the suspension can be announced.

Most Vikings players heard the news during meetings Thursday morning. It didn't come as a shock to most of them, considering Smith's history.

He was dismissed from the University of Tennessee in 2000 for testing positive for marijuana. He transferred to Oregon, where he finished his college career.

Concerns about his substance abuse problem caused him to fall to the fourth round of the 2003 NFL draft. Not long after the Vikings selected him, Smith dubbed himself the "SOD" -- Steal of the Draft.

"I think Onterrio knows he made some bad decisions," center Matt Birk said. "We know that."

Despite missing four games last season because of his suspension, Smith led the Vikings in rushing with 544 yards. He was No. 2 on the depth chart behind Michael Bennett. Second-year pro Mewelde Moore moves up to No. 2, while rookie Ciatrick Fason, the team's fourth-round draft pick this year, is likely to become No. 3 ahead of Butchie Wallace. Veteran Moe Williams is the third-down and short-yardage back.

"It's kind of like losing Randy [Moss] in that you hate that it happens, but at the same time you have to move on," receiver Nate Burleson said.

Quarterback Daunte Cul- pepper said Monday that the Vikings need Smith to win a title.

"But I think we can still do it," Culpepper said Thursday. "Lucky for us, we have four other really good backs who can handle the job. I feel bad for Onterrio, but we'll be fine."

Tice said heading into the offseason that Bennett, Smith and Moore would compete for the No. 1 running back position. He had listed Bennett as the tentative No. 1, but said Thursday that Bennett had widened the gap on the other two this offseason.

"Obviously, you're concerned about injuries," Tice said. "But Michael has had a brilliant offseason and I think is really making the competition thing for the No. 1 job pretty much a joke from what I've seen. We just pray that he stays healthy."

Said cornerback Antoine Winfield: "A year is a long time to sit out of a game you love. But, hopefully, it will teach Onterrio what's important. Maybe then he can get his priorities straight."

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