Smith’s appeal of suspension will allow him to play
By Jason Williams
Knight Ridder Newspapers
SEATTLE — The Minnesota Vikings can relax a bit about their running-back situation.
Onterrio Smith will get to play at least in the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against Dallas because the NFL is not expected to make a decision on his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy until after Minnesota begins the regular season, a person with knowledge of the situation said Thursday night.
That person said the decision likely would be made sometime before the Vikings’ second game, at Philadelphia on Sept. 20.
This should quell some of coach Mike Tice’s concerns about his depth at running back. Starter Michael Bennett is expected to miss the Dallas game with a sprained right knee but almost certainly will return to play against Philadelphia.
Smith is Bennett’s primary backup.
Perhaps an indication that the Vikings are preparing for Smith to play in the opener is that the second-year pro played on the Vikings’ first possession in Thursday night’s exhibition finale against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field. Smith was the fourth-string running back in last Friday’s exhibition victory over San Francisco, not entering the game until late in the third quarter.
Last week Tice selected veteran Moe Williams the starter for the Dallas game. Whether Smith will get the nod now is uncertain. But the former University of Oregon standout will bolster a running game that would have had to rely heavily on the aging Williams and on promising but unproven rookie Mewelde Moore in the opener.
Smith led NFC rookies with 579 yards rushing last season.
(c) 2004, St. Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.).
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