Williams reinstated after 18-month suspension

Updated: November 14, 2007, 8:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

DAVIE, Fla. -- Ricky Williams' suspension ended after more than 18 months Wednesday when he was reinstated by the NFL, and the winless Miami Dolphins may welcome him back.

The 2002 league rushing champion was scheduled to fly to South Florida for a physical Thursday and meet with coach Cam Cameron, said Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg.

The first-year Miami coach, whose team is 0-9, said he talked with Williams by phone for "five or six minutes" Wednesday, but hadn't made a decision about activating him.

"I want to see where he is, and also let him know where we're headed, and we'll go from there," Cameron said.

Cameron has been mum for months regarding whether he would want Williams back. But Steinberg said he was encouraged by a phone conversation Wednesday with Matt Thomas, Dolphins general counsel-football administration.

"His indication was they were interested in Ricky," Steinberg said. "The spirit of the discussion was welcoming. It was a very similar discussion to what you would have regarding a draft choice or any returning player. The only contingent was whether they would have him practice Friday or Monday."

Linebacker Joey Porter, for one, said he would love to have Williams as a teammate "just because we're 0-9."

"I don't care who you got ... if you could run the ball like Ricky did," Porter said. "I mean, right now I'd do anything for a victory."

The Dolphins offered no immediate comment on Williams' reinstatement. His return would be only part of backfield shakeup -- rookie quarterback John Beck was promoted to the first team Wednesday and will make his NFL debut Sunday at Philadelphia.

Williams met last week with league administrators who had raised concerns even though doctors at a Boston-area treament center where Williams spent a good portion of four months were very supportive for his reinstatement, sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

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The administrators of the substance abuse policy were satisfied with Williams' response to their concerns, sources told ESPN, clearing the path for Goodell to reinstate him.

Williams also had written Goodell a personal letter of appeal that accompanied the medical data regarding his treatment since he had a positive test in April, which extended his one-year suspension.

The 30-year-old Williams, who has played in only 12 games since the start of the 2004 season, was suspended in April 2006 after violating the league drug policy for the fourth time. His return was delayed when he tested positive again for marijuana last spring.

He played in the Canadian Football League last season and applied for reinstatement Oct. 1.

Williams is eligible to attend team meetings and practice immediately, but the earliest he would be allowed to play in a game would be against Pittsburgh on Monday night, Nov. 26. The team will have a roster exemption for up to two weeks if and when he starts practicing.

"Ricky worked extremely hard to meet the requirements for reinstatement," said his attorney, David Cornwell. "He is grateful for commissioner Goodell's decision. Ricky is committed to making the most of the opportunity to rejoin the NFL."

With or without you

Since the Dolphins traded for Ricky Williams prior to the 2002 season, he has played 43 games in a Miami uniform and missed 46 games due to suspensions or coming back from suspensions.

With Ricky Without Ricky
Games 43 46
W-L 26-17 12-34
Rush YPG 132.1 100.5
Total YPG 328.7 300.0

Williams rushed for 3,225 yards in the 2002-03 seasons after being traded to the Dolphins from New Orleans. He retired in 2004, traveling in India and Australia before returning to the Dolphins in 2005, when he ran for 743 yards alternating with rookie Ronnie Brown.

Brown is on injured reserve, leaving the woeful Dolphins short on running backs.

As part of the NFL drug program, Williams underwent therapy for the past 5½ months in Boston and benefited from the treatment, Steinberg said.

"This is the program working exactly as it should -- treating a player for an underlying life problem in a positive and sophisticated way, and returning him to health," Steinberg said.

Steinberg said Williams has been working out and weighs a fit 230 pounds.

"The Dolphins, or whatever team, is getting a highly motivated player with a new lease on life," Steinberg said.

Perhaps the Dolphins can be persuaded. But in May, when discussing Williams' most recent relapse, Cameron said it's difficult to salvage the careers of troubled players.

"The easiest predictor of future behavior is previous behavior," the coach said.

Coincidentally, Miami general manager Randy Mueller traded Williams to Miami when both were with the Saints. Since that deal, the Dolphins have endured a five-year playoff drought, the longest in franchise history.

While Porter was outspoken in supporting the return of Williams, other players declined to discuss the issue -- sort of.

"Cam asked all of us not to comment on it, so I'm going to abide by that," kicker Jay Feely said. "The guy's my teammate ... and I'll embrace him."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.