Departed Williams owes Miami $8.6 million

Updated: September 25, 2004, 1:21 AM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams was ordered Friday to repay the team more than $8.6 million for breaching his contract when he suddenly quit before training camp.

Arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled Friday that Williams must repay $8,616,353 in bonus money under the contract he left behind when he shocked the Dolphins and their fans with his sudden retirement last month. The contract ran through 2007.

For Ricky, the shows go on
Ricky Williams, who an arbitrator ruled Friday owes the Dolphins $8.6 million after his abrupt retirement just before training camp, will be in China this weekend for a concert headlined by Alicia Keys, with Boyz II Men and Cyndi Lauper also on the bill.

Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, is involved in promoting the concert. Williams and Steinberg will be meeting, and Steinberg continues to try to convince Williams to return to football.

Lawyers for Williams will file for bankruptcy if he is forced to repay the Dolphins in an effort to pay as little back as possible to the Dolphins. The lawyers also are looking for ways that legally Williams can become an unrestricted free agent, so that if he decides to return to football, he could play for any team.

"We are pleased that Mr. Bloch has confirmed that Ricky Williams breached his contract with the Dolphins and is required to repay compensation," NFL senior vice president/general counsel Dennis Curran said.

"This decision is consistent with many other cases that have affirmed the right of NFL clubs and players to negotiate compensation based on the player's fulfillment of the contract," Curran said.

The Dolphins declined comment Friday, saying they only talk about players on their roster.

Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, didn't immediately return a phone message left Friday.

The Dolphins had filed a grievance against Williams, asking an arbitrator to uphold their contractual right to recover the money paid to him between the signing bonus and incentives. Before the grievance, the Dolphins mailed a letter to Williams asking him to report or pay the money back.

Williams also called the team, telling them he would come back if he received a new contract. The Dolphins declined that request.

Williams has given many reasons why he called Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt days before workouts were to begin in July to tell him he was quitting. At different times, Williams has expressed displeasure with his contract, an excessive workload and new offensive coordinator Chris Foerster.

It was not immediately known what would happen if Williams declared bankruptcy or decided to return to the team.

But even if Williams, 27, wanted to return, he faces a suspension for the entire 2004 season for violating the NFL drug policy. He has acknowledged testing positive for marijuana three times.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press