Tice: 'It's in the league's hands'

Updated: May 19, 2005, 4:19 PM ET
Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith, caught recently with a device called "The Original Whizzinator" that is designed to beat drug tests, will miss the rest of the team's offseason program for undisclosed reasons.

"He's been excused from the rest of the offseason program and he'll be gone indefinitely," coach Mike Tice said Thursday. "I really can't speak about any reasons why or when he'll be back. It's in the league's hands. We'll leave it at that."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he couldn't comment on Smith's status or elaborate on Tice's comments.

"He's been excused from the club at this point, by the club -- not by the league," Aiello said.

Smith's agent, Doug Hendrickson, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Smith missed the team's camp on Tuesday for unspecified personal reasons. He returned on Wednesday and worked out, but didn't speak to reporters.

Smith was stopped April 21 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after his bag set off a screening device. A search found several vials of dried urine and "The Original Whizzinator," which is marketed as a way to beat drug tests.

Smith told police the gear was for his cousin. He wasn't charged by police, and the NFL has said possession of the device alone isn't enough to violate league drug policies.

Smith has two strikes against him under the league's substance abuse policy, and is subject to a yearlong suspension with another violation. Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2003, led the team in rushing last season with 544 yards.

Receiver Nate Burleson talked as though Smith was out for the season.

"We have to hope for the best, hope he continues to keep his head in the game and physically stays ready," Burleson said. "We'll see him in a year."

Burleson doesn't think things will be any different with Smith gone.

"We'll be the same team," Burleson said. "We have no choice but to do the things we're doing. We still have a slew of good running backs."

Those include Michael Bennett, Mewelde Moore, Moe Williams and rookie Ciatrick Fason.

"He's a great competitor and I know wherever he's going to go work out, he will be somewhere working out, getting himself ready for the season," Bennett said. "My thoughts are just for him to take some time for himself and just kind of get the things that he needs to get together and go on about his business."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press