CANTON, Ohio -- Whether he is in for two plays or two
quarters, Ricky Williams will draw the most attention in Monday
night's Hall of Fame game.
Forget the returns to the NFL of Dolphins coach Nick Saban and
Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner. Or the holdouts of both
teams' top draft picks, running backs Ronnie Brown of Miami and
Cedric Benson of Chicago.
For now, ignore all the questions about both clubs' suspect
offenses. The spotlight for this one is on Williams.
"I really don't have an expectation," Williams said. "I found
that expectations really get in the way. I don't make that choice.
I don't decide how many carries I will have, therefore it's
pointless for me to have expectations about it."
But there will be expectations from elsewhere. Actually, from
When one of the NFL's premier players retires just before
training camp, as Williams did last year at age 27, and his former
team falls apart, his comeback draws headlines. Particularly with
the enigmatic Williams, who must serve a four-game suspension at
the outset of the regular season for violating the NFL's substance
Williams, who claimed throughout his layoff that he had no
interest in suiting up again, now says he has a mission to achieve
"I realize that one thing that I've had to work on to grow as a
person is the only reason why someone is gifted, which is to give
back," he said. "My teacher is from Vietnam and she doesn't
understand why don't [people] go out and play football instead
of just sitting on the couch drinking beer. I'd rather have people
be inspired by what we do. When we work through this heat and fight
through this adversity, I wish they can be more inspired by what we
The Dolphins could be inspired both by seeing their greatest
player, Dan Marino, being saluted as the latest Hall of Fame
inductee (along with Steve Young, Fritz Pollard and Benny
Friedman), and by trying to prove something from the outset to
Saban. Miami has dozens of questions to answer in Saban's first
season as an NFL head man -- he was a defensive coordinator under
Bill Belichick in Cleveland before heading to Michigan State and
"For me, personally, there is always a lot of apprehension when
you do something new," Saban admitted. "Whether it's the first
practice, the first team meeting, the first game or the first camp,
and I don't think there is going to be anything different about
this. This is my 12th year of being a head coach, but obviously the
first one in the National Football League.
"It will be interesting to see where we are as a team, I'm very
much looking forward to that, but also as a coach you always wonder
if you've covered all the bases."
Chicago is in its second season under coach Lovie Smith, who has
turned over his offense to Turner, now in his second stint with the
Bears after an eight-year stint as the head coach of Illinois. The
defense, Smith's specialty, should be representative if star
linebacker Brian Urlacher and safety Mike Brown are healthy.
But the offense, with quarterback Rex Grossman returning from
missing most of the 2004 season with a knee injury, is starting
anew under Turner.
"I just want to see him run the offense, make good decisions,
get rid of the ball quickly," said Turner, who didn't indicate how
long Grossman would play Monday night. "I know the physical part
will be there, the accuracy, everything else. I know he'll do that.
But just to make sure he's focused in and running the offense."
Grossman says not to worry.
"I'm ready. We've practiced enough to know this offense and
practiced enough to know that I'm 100 percent healthy and ready to
go," he said. "So this is just an exciting beginning of our