Source: Williams will not return this year

Updated: October 22, 2004, 12:50 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Ricky Williams abruptly retired from the Miami Dolphins last summer because he disagreed with the NFL over a disputed drug test. Williams now wants to play again.

Attorney David Cornwell said Thursday the league "took a position regarding that test that we thought was inappropriate."

Ricky Williams
Williams

"What we challenged was the testing and the specimen from last December's testing," Cornwell said after a 90-minute meeting with two NFL officials and a union representative aimed at resuming the star running back's career.

"It was important to have us all in the same room," Cornwell said. "In the course of the last 10 months, there have been various discussions between the parties. I'm going to make a formal proposal for Ricky to resume his career as soon as possible.

"My preference is that he was able to play last week."

But one of the men that was in the meeting told ESPN's Andrea Kremer: "Ricky Williams is not going to play this year."

Williams did not attend the meeting. Cornwell said his client is taking classes in Northern California and refused to elaborate.

"He had a class today -- I spoke to him right after the meeting," Cornwell said.

An arbitrator ruled last month that Williams, 27, must repay more than $8.6 million to the Dolphins for breaching his contract. Cornwell said as far as he's concerned, that has nothing to do with Williams' desire to return.

"My assessment is he wants to play football," Cornwell said.

The Miami Herald has quoted Williams as saying he has failed three drug tests -- in May 2002, last December, and sometime last spring.

A second positive test calls for a player to be fined his salary for four games and a third results in a four-game suspension without pay.

A first or second failed test is not made public.

At issue is whether Williams decided to retire as a result of learning he was facing a four-game suspension.

"I'm not going to go into the specifics of our rationale," Cornwell said. "We had a point of view; the NFL had a different point of view."

That being the case, Cornwell said he didn't believe Williams should face a suspension upon returning.

"Ricky made the decision to retire. Clearly, Ricky overreacted as things unfolded," Cornwell said. "But for that misunderstanding, he would not have retired. This was a human who had a particularly emotional reaction to a set of circumstances.

"I've seen hundreds of reports concerning what this was about. None of them are right. As far as I know, he never wanted to stop playing football. The issue was not whether he wanted to play football. The issue was the implications of his continuing to play football."

After announcing his retirement, Williams told the Herald his desire to continue smoking marijuana played a role in his decision to stop playing after five NFL seasons -- three with New Orleans and two with the Dolphins.

Williams rushed for 3,225 yards in two seasons with the Dolphins, currently the NFL's only winless team with an 0-6 record.

Cornwell said he wasn't qualified to say if Williams was in playing shape, but added: "I think he looks great. I think his mood is excellent. I view him as being in great spirits, very engaged in this process, anxious to get back at it."

Asked if Williams wanted to return to the Dolphins, Cornwell replied: "He's under contract with the Dolphins and wants to play football."

Regarding the anger some Miami players have expressed over Williams' abrupt retirement, Cornwell said: "I think that he realizes there is some reaching out to do. He also recognizes that has to be done privately."

The trade deadline passed earlier this week, so Williams can't be dealt elsewhere until after the season.

Dennis Curran, senior vice president and general counsel for the NFL, attended the meeting along with Reaphel Prevot of the league office and Stacy Robinson of the players' union.

"We met at their request and listened to what they had to say, and we will review it," Curran said. "We answered fully every question they asked."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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