Thomas doubts Ricky will play for Miami

Originally Published: October 6, 2004
Associated Press

DAVIE, Fla. -- With running back Ricky Williams ready to reverse directions and come out of retirement, his former Miami Dolphins teammates were mixed in their reaction Wednesday.

Defensive end David Bowens said he would like to see Williams rejoin the Dolphins, in part because they're 0-4. But Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas said he doubted that help from Williams is on the way.

"He will not be playing for the Dolphins," Thomas predicted. "He's got too many things with the fans and too much with the media, and that's the reason he ran from it in the first place. He wouldn't come back here."

Thomas might be right. Gary Ostrow, an attorney who has represented Williams, said the 2002 NFL rushing champion hopes to receive clearance from the league to play again before the Oct. 19 trade deadline so he can be dealt by Miami.

Williams asked the NFL for a hearing to clarify his status following repeated violations of the league drug program. The Dolphins say their understanding is he must serve a suspension for the rest of this season, and the NFL has declined to comment.

"It's very murky water, and Ricky has asked for a clarification," Ostrow said. "He would like the option to play for another team."

Contributing to Williams' change of heart about playing might be an arbitration ruling Sept. 24 that he must repay more than $8.6 million to the Dolphins for breaching his contract. There's also the $3.5 million salary he has done without while traveling the world.

Williams said later in the week, however, that he would like to pay back the Dolphins to get out from under the financial pressure.

"I want to give them every single cent back. ... " Williams told The Miami Herald for Friday's editions. "The money is what made me miserable. I want to be free of that stress."

He also told the newspaper that criticism from former teammates and fans -- including Thomas' comments -- didn't erase his willingness to play in Miami.

"I read Zach's comment," Williams told the Herald. "I don't care. I don't care what people think of me. Let them say what they want."

To those who think he's all about the money, he had this to say, according to the newspaper: "I've been living in a tent for weeks now, paying $7 a day [on his extended trip to Asia and Australia]. ... Do you really think money means anything to me?

"I lost everything, and that's when I realized how much I love to play the game."

Williams has expressed an interest in playing for the Oakland Raiders. Their coach is Norv Turner, who was Williams' offensive coordinator during his two seasons in Miami.

"The Raiders would fit Ricky's personality better anyway," Ostrow said. "But he may not have many options other than going back to the Dolphins. How many teams are going to have an interest in him other than Norv, who has a relationship with him?"

Whether Miami would welcome him back is uncertain. He caused a lot of resentment by retiring in July, shortly before training camp. The Dolphins haven't won a game since he left, and at 0-4 they're off to their worst start in 38 years going into Sunday's game at New England.

"It has been very difficult," coach Dave Wannstedt said. "The guy was 65 or 70 percent of our offense. I don't think we would have redone our whole offensive line and started from scratch if we knew we were going to have to start from scratch at the running back position."

In the days following Williams' retirement, center Seth McKinney called it selfish and stupid. Williams in turn disparaged McKinney's blocking. Williams said players had no respect for Wannstedt, and even poked fun at the coach's mustache. Defensive tackle Larry Chester said Williams was acting like a bitter girlfriend and owed the team an apology.

Given so much baggage, would the Dolphins embrace Williams' return?

"There are really two lines of thought, and I'm kind of debating between the two," guard Taylor Whitley said. "You can either say, 'To heck with the guy. While we've been going 0-4 here, he's been out having a good time.' Or we can say, `Hey, we need the help. Come on back.'

"I don't know."

The Dolphins have scored two touchdowns this season, and because of injuries, they're on their fifth running back. Inept offense has sabotaged four solid showings by the defense, and Miami appears headed for its first losing season since 1988.

So Bowens would like to see Williams return, and he thinks some teammates feel the same way.

"At 4-0 it would be a different story than being 0-4," Bowens said. "If we were winning, I'm sure people would be a little bit more negative. But since we're losing, people might be a little more optimistic. We could use all the help we can get."

But Thomas said trading Williams is the Dolphins' best hope.

"Because of the way his personality is, he wouldn't come back to the mess we've gotten into and try to face all the questions," Thomas said. "Hopefully we can at least get something for him."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press