Smith violated substance-abuse policy

Updated: June 7, 2005, 5:27 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The NFL announced Tuesday that troubled Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith has been suspended for the entire 2005 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Onterrio Smith
Running Back
Minnesota Vikings
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
124 544 2 36 394 2

Smith will forfeit his entire base salary, $380,000, for the 2005 season. The Vikings could also seek to recover a portion of his signing bonus.

The announcement had been expected for several weeks, ever since Vikings head coach Mike Tice suspended Smith indefinitely following an embarrassing run-in at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

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.

The NFL's news release did not give a specific reason for Smith's suspension.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Onterrio that he can shake some of these problems and be with us next year," offensive coordinator Steve Loney said.

Smith's attorney, David Cornwell, did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon.

Smith was expected to battle for the starting running back job with Michael Bennett and Mewelde Moore after leading the team in rushing in 2004.

Despite missing four games last season for violating the league's drug policy, Smith managed to lead the team with 544 yards rushing and entered the offseason as perhaps the Vikings' most talented runner.

But his off-the-field problems continued to surface. He already had two strikes against him before his latest violation. The third strike in the program comes with an automatic one-year suspension.

He was also kicked out of the University of Tennessee after testing positive for marijuana in 2000. He finished his college career at Oregon and was a fourth-round pick of the Vikings in 2003.

"We first off hate for him as an individual to be going through this, but certainly we know the league and the organization will do all we can to help him overcome his problems," Loney said.

The Vikings raised eyebrows in March when they spent a fourth-round draft pick on Florida running back Ciatrick Fason, which brought another gifted runner into the Vikings' already crowded backfield that also includes veteran Moe Williams.

The move seems to have paid off, with Fason now in the running for serious playing time should Bennett and Moore get injured or fail to produce.

Although Smith's suspension means more practice repetitions for Fason, the rookie was not in a mood to celebrate on Tuesday.

"I feel real bad because Onterrio was a big part of this offense," Fason said. "I feel bad because it kind of hurt the team somewhat. But you have to move on and know that he'll be back here next year ready to go. He's going to prove a lot of people wrong and show what he can do."

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