Williams' attorney worked wonders

Updated: November 24, 2004, 1:09 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Ricky Williams' attorney David Cornwell did a great job negotiating a way for him to return to the NFL. The next problem is going to be seeing if Williams is going to agree to the terms.

Cornwell has worked out a proposal in which Williams can be reinstated by Dec. 13 or 14 and then serve a four-game suspension for violations of the league's substance abuse policy. While the return would come late enough that he wouldn't wear a Miami Dolphins uniform this season, or most likely ever again, it would put him in play for next season to a team willing to make a trade.

The NFL and Cornwell haven't finalized the deal, but then neither has Ricky. The question going around Tuesday night is if he's willing to agree to the proposal. Williams is currently attending a holistic medicine school 40 miles outside of Sacramento and isn't the best at communicating his true intentions.

He would need to accept this concept for commissioner Paul Tagliabue to approve it for the league. That may not be easy.

In the end, the terms of their settlement between Williams' attorney and the league are fair. He failed a drug test last December that made him eligible for a four-game suspension. Williams challenged the test, but before the challenge warranted a hearing, he opted to retire July 25. By retiring, his four-game suspension became a one-year suspension.

Williams traveled the world, from China to Australia, living in tents and in the wilderness. He didn't deal with his career or financial matters. The Dolphins sued him for breach of contract and he now owes the Dolphins $8 million.

Cornwell got involved this fall and spent numerous hours negotiating with the NFL, which wanted to have Williams suspended well into next season if he wanted to return. First, Cornwell heard from Williams that he wanted to play.

The attorney submitted a couple of proposals that basically used the 2004 season as time served. Last week, Cornwell made a trip to New York, and the pending solution appeared to be the fairest.

For Williams, it allows him to re-enter the NFL the minute the 2004 season is completed. It also keeps him in the drug program as an offender under a four-game suspension as opposed to a year's suspension. The next time Williams fails a drug test or misses a scheduled test, he would be subject to a one-year suspension.

For the Dolphins, it gives them a trade asset. Had Williams had the uncertainty about his playing status still lingering, he would have been impossible to trade. Now, the Dolphins can shop him in trades in March and he could end up with, possibly, the Raiders.

For the NFL, it keeps its drug policy intact. Williams violated its terms and missed the entire 2004 season by the way he mishandled his affairs.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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