Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Williams wants to rejoin Dolphins

Agent inquiring on behalf of RB, but drug question lingers

By Dave Goldberg
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Ricky Williams wants to rejoin the Miami Dolphins and has asked the NFL how soon he can return, his agent said Tuesday.

It's unclear whether Williams must serve a suspension the rest of this season for repeated violations of the league drug program. He has asked the NFL for a hearing to clarify his status, but no date has been set.

"Ricky has asked me to explore and to try to facilitate his return," said his agent, Leigh Steinberg. "He has a passion for playing football and is excited about playing."

The 2002 NFL rushing champion stunned the Dolphins when he retired just before training camp in late July. Steinberg declined to discuss his client's change of heart, but on Sept. 24, Williams was ordered by an arbitrator to repay more than $8.6 million to the team for breaching his contract.

A Dolphins source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the team's understanding is that Williams can't play this year because of his drug-program violations.

Steinberg and the Dolphins declined to say whether there have been recent conversations between the two parties.

"This is an issue between the player, his representative and the league," Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman said. "Accordingly, we don't have a comment on the matter."

Last week, coach Dave Wannstedt said he hadn't talked to Williams in about a month.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment on the situation.

Since retiring, Williams has traveled to Asia and Australia, but Steinberg said he's now in the United States.

"He's in excellent shape," Steinberg said. "He has been working out regularly and looks great."

Williams and the Dolphins traded long distance barbs in the days after he quit. But the Dolphins' 0-4 start - their worst since 1966 - would likely make them more inclined to take him back.

Williams, 27, has given many reasons for retiring. He expressed a desire to continue smoking marijuana, and he said he was unhappy about his contract, a workload he considered excessive and Miami's new offensive coordinator Chris Foerster.

He acknowledged testing positive for marijuana three times. Under league rules, a player in the NFL's drug program faces suspension if he returns in the calendar year after he announces his retirement. If he returns after a year, he faces a lesser suspension.

The arbitrator's award of more than $8.6 million to the Dolphins involved bonus money included in Williams' contract, which runs through 2007. After mailing a letter to Williams asking him either to report or pay the money back, the team sought arbitration.

The Dolphins may be headed toward their first losing season since 1988. They have scored only two touchdowns in four games without Williams, who rushed for 3,225 in two seasons after being obtained in a trade with New Orleans.

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