Deal needs his approval, NFL's blessing

Updated: November 24, 2004, 12:23 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- An agreement is close to completion where retired Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams will serve a four-game suspension beginning next month and then be reinstated to the team by the NFL, according to parties close to the negotiations.

 Ricky Williams
Williams

"I am pleased with the National Football League's proposal," attorney David Cornwell told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I think Ricky will be pleased, too."

The league said Tuesday that an agreement has not been finalized.

"There is no deal," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "There may be a proposal, but there's no agreement." Aiello added that the league and Williams' representatives have been in discussions "for some time."

"Anything regarding Ricky's status is a league matter," Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene said.

Williams must approve the deal, which would require him to immediately submit to league drug testing and continue on a regular basis. The running back is required to serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The deal would allow him to move from the retired list to the suspended list for the final four games of the schedule. After that, his contract with the Dolphins would be in force.

Tuesday, Nov. 23
My initial reaction is wonderment at what team Ricky Williams will be playing for next season -- because there's no way the Dolphins can let him anywhere near their organization. The players in that locker room have made it perfectly clear that he let them down and that he's not wanted. It would be a mistake for the team to let him back in the picture and risk losing the faith of the players. They need to see what type of interest there is in Williams and get rid of him for the maximum value.

I'm not surprised the NFL is working toward reinstating Williams because this is a league of second, third and fourth chances. The NFL is a business and not some altruistic enterprise that is looking out for a player's best interests. The league is in business to make money and Williams makes this league money through ticket sales, sales of his jerseys, dolls, etc. That's why he's back.
-- Mark Schlereth, ESPN

Still at issue is whether Williams has the desire to play pro football again. Now about a month into a 17-month course at the California College of Ayurveda in Grass Valley, Calif., studying holistic medicine., Williams told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I understand their [Cornwell and Williams' agent Leigh Steinberg] wishful thinking. It's easy math. If I play, it puts more money in their pocket."

Although he wouldn't rule out a return to football, he indicated the game was far from his mind.

"I loved playing football, but the reasons I loved football were just to feed my ego," Williams said. "And any time you feed your ego, it's a one-way street."

Williams, 27, retired during the summer amid reports he faced suspension for violating terms of the league's substance abuse policy. He gave up $5 million in what would would have been his sixth season in the NFL.

The Dolphins' season pretty much was ruined by Williams' sudden retirement. The star runner was the focal point of Miami's offense and the Dolphins, also ravaged by injuries, are 1-9 without him. They will have their first losing season since 1988 and Dave Wannstedt resigned as coach earlier this month.

The team filed a lawsuit last month in federal court against Williams after an arbitrator ruled he owes the team more than $8.6 million for breaching his contract.

Williams rushed for 3,225 yards in two seasons with the Dolphins, including a league-leading 1,853 yards in 2002. They acquired the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner in a trade with New Orleans after the 2001 season.

Throughout his career, Williams has been plagued by strange behavior, including conducting interviews with his helmet on when he was with the Saints. He suffers from social-anxiety disorder and was a spokesman for an anti-depressant. He said marijuana helped him once he had to stop using the anti-depressant because it didn't agree with his diet.

Williams said reports he retired because he wanted to continue smoking marijuana are laughable.

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