Several Fins say they're not worried
DAVIE, Fla. -- Rookie Fred Russell settled into Ricky Williams' former locker, a clear indication the Miami Dolphins were ready to move on as they opened training camp Saturday without their star running back.
It wasn't easy.
Although Williams wasn't listed on any rosters and his No. 34 was no where to be found on the first day of camp, the majority of questions centered around his sudden and stunning retirement that left the Dolphins with a huge void to fill.
"It's football. People always leave football," tight end Randy McMichael said. "Sure, Ricky was the centerpiece of our offense. But now that he's not here, we have to move on. We can't just sit here and say, 'Oh my God, he's gone. What are we going to do now?'
"We have to play football -- with or without him."
Williams, who ran for 3,225 yards in two years with the Dolphins, hasn't given the team any reason to believe he will change his mind about quitting football.
The quirky, 27-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner told The Miami Herald marijuana played a large role in his decision to walk away after just five pro seasons.
He told the newspaper he failed a third drug test for marijuana use, which would cost him a four-game suspension if he returns, and said he learned of the failed test days before telling coach Dave Wannstedt he was done playing.
"It makes for a great story, but for the most part, we're not even going to think about it," linebacker Junior Seau said. "We're not going to put any energy toward it. Obviously, there are probably going to be some personal thoughts that everyone may have, but we're going to deal with football and come together as a team. We're going to focus on the guys in the locker room."
Center Seth McKinney was maybe the most critical of Williams' decision, calling it "the most selfish thing a person could do."
"I said what I meant and I meant what I said," McKinney said. "I said he quit, and he did. I was bothered by it, but he's not part of this team and it doesn't affect us anymore. It's over. I was upset, but I'm not worried about it one bit."
The Dolphins have plenty of other things to worry about, like signing Pro Bowl defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, deciding between Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley at quarterback, solidifying a revamped offensive line and working the kinks out of an offense that changed coordinators twice since the end of last season.
Williams' retirement overshadowed all of it Saturday.
"It's been overanalyzed and talked about. It's over now. Let it go. He's gone," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "I don't know where he is. I know we have a locker room full of guys who want to play football. The timing was difficult, but you're dealt bad hands sometimes and you have to play them.
"Our goals haven't changed. Our expectations haven't changed. Our resolve hasn't changed."
But the backfield sure has.
Travis Minor opened camp as the starter, taking the first handoff, sprinting up the middle and getting a loud cheer from the fans.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back carried just 85 times for 373 yards the last two years and hasn't started a game in three NFL seasons.
He doesn't have the size, strength and durability that Williams showed with the Dolphins, but barring a trade, the team expects Minor to carry the load. Sammy Morris and Leonard Henry also are in the mix.
"You have to look at it just like Ricky got hurt the first day of training camp and you lost him for the season," Taylor said. "New England won last year, and they didn't have Ricky. Their back wasn't half the back Ricky was.
"I've got the utmost confidence in Travis Minor. I'd give him the ball and see how far he can take it, then give him some water and hand it to him again."
Linebacker Zach Thomas knows what it will ultimately take to end all the talk about Williams -- winning.
"When you're sitting at home and reading the paper and there's all this drama, it's like you don't know what to do," he said. "You can squash it if you win. We just need to win. Take care of the wins and everything will be all right."
Notes: The Dolphins signed the last of their six draft choices Saturday, inking fourth-round pick Will Poole to a four-year deal. ... LB Zach Thomas (knee), S Shawn Wooden (back) and OT Damion McIntosh (ankle) did not practice. DT Tim Bowens also was held out.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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