Ricky Back in Miami

While the Dolphins negotiate with first round pick Ronnie Brown, there is another running back in the mix.

The return of Ricky Williams couldn't have gone any smoother for the controversial tailback or the Dolphins.

Although a tad undersized at 213 pounds, Williams has looked better than expected through the first week of Miami's training camp. He also has gotten embraced by his teammates despite the fact Williams abandoned the Dolphins last year by his decision to retire just before the start of the 2004 preseason.

Tailback Sammy Morris even went so far as to defend Williams after reading comments made by Joe Theismann. The ESPN analyst said Williams was "basically a (marijuana) addict" and "a suspension waiting to happen for a year. He's coming back for the money. He's not coming back for the love of the game."

"I take it personal when other guys are dogging him," said Morris, who finished last season as Miami's leading rusher (523 yards) in light of Williams' absence. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion. But at the same time, that's my teammate and I just don't like when people are questioning and judging his motives from the outside.

"Other guys can't really say what the team's reaction is. They can't speak for us. As far as the running backs are concerned, Rick is a brother, a teammate. We embrace Ricky."

Williams paved the way for smooth relations with his teammates by apologizing shortly after meeting with them. Williams then apologized to the public, saying that his decision to walk away from football would come across to many people as "being very, very selfish."

Williams admitted that money did play a role in his returning to the Dolphins because he owes the franchise $8.6 million for breach of contract (although the team may forgive the debt if he can stay on the straight and narrow). But Williams said he also has a love for football that goes beyond financial reasons.

"I never stopped loving football," Williams said. "I think the issue that I had was playing football in the confines of the NFL, being an NFL football player. I think I had a problem with some of the rules and just living that life. I wasn't very comfortable with it, and I decided to walk away from it.

One of those rules was the NFL's substance-abuse policy, as Williams still faces a four-game suspension to start the regular season for failing a third drug test for marijuana last summer. Until then, Williams is allowed to practice with the Dolphins and participate in exhibition games.

So far, the man who orchestrated Williams' return is happy with what he sees.

"He's done fairly well," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "He's picked up the system very quickly. He doesn't make a lot of mental mistakes in practice. I think it's easy to see why he's been as successful a player as he's been in the past. When he carries the ball, there's a little something different about it.

"We will work him and he will work his way up as we see fit relative to him making the progress he needs to make relative to the other players. That might take some time. We're going to give it some time. It's a unique circumstance. As of right now, he's not going to start the season with us (because of the suspension). So we want to bring him along, but we also want to bring other players on the team along as well."

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