Williams wants NFL to clarify his eligibility

Originally Published: October 6, 2004
ESPN.com news services

MIAMI -- Maybe Ricky Williams is tired of traveling. Maybe he has run out of books to read. Or maybe he doesn't want to pay the $8.6 million he owes the Miami Dolphins for breach of contract.

 Ricky Williams
Williams

Whatever the reason, Williams wants to rejoin the Dolphins and has asked the NFL how soon he can return, his agent said Tuesday.

It's unclear whether the 2002 NFL rushing champion must serve a suspension the rest of this season for repeated violations of the league drug program. He has asked the league for a hearing to clarify his status, but no date has been set.

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

Williams left the Dolphins reeling when he retired just before training camp in late July, and they're off to an 0-4 start, their worst since 1966. His agent, Leigh Steinberg, declined to discuss Williams' change of heart.

"All I can tell you is that Ricky has asked me to explore and to try to facilitate his return," Steinberg said. "He's excited and in good shape and misses football."

One likely factor for Williams' reversal: On Sept. 24, an arbitrator ordered him to repay more than $8.6 million to the team for breaching his contract.

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 said Wednesday that Williams sent a letter to the league requesting a meeting to determine his status.

"We have not yet responded to the letter," Aiello said. "His status in the drug program is confidential. There is nothing more for us to say at this time."

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' poor start would likely make them more inclined to take him back.

The 27-year-old running back has given many reasons for retiring. He expressed a desire to travel, read and continue smoking marijuana. 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 Dolphins might 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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