The Williams watch

Ricky Williams' first practice with the Dolphins since August was bound to draw a lot of attention, and that certainly was the case at the team's training facility on Wednesday. And by all indications, everything went according to plan.

We say by all indications because the media is only allowed to watch the stretching portion of practice. We also couldn't hear from the man himself because Williams passed out word on Monday that he didn't want to speak to the media until after Sunday's game so he could fully concentrate on getting ready.

With the amount of media people in the Dolphins locker room on Wednesday asking the same questions that were asked back in July when Williams first returned from his one-year hiatus.

Coach Nick Saban was asked after practice whether he was surprised by the fascination surrounded Williams.

"I'm not surprised with the fascination, I'm surprised I keep getting asked the same questions I've been asked for the last six months," he said.

One question Saban hadn't been asked before was whether Williams or Ronnie Brown would start Sunday against the Bucs, but Saban beat everyone to the punch by volunteering an answer before the fact.

Actually, it was a non-answer, with Saban saying that Brown and Williams would both start, adding: "Who knows, maybe one of them will start at center and the other will start at tight end."

Saban did volunteer that the Dolphins need to get creative to find ways to get the ball in the hands of Williams and Brown and that Williams' playing time on Sunday will be dictated by how Williams responds to his first regular season game action since December of 2003.

But it's easy to tell that Saban is anxious for the furor over Williams to die down, something that won't happen until after he has played his first game.

Rest assured that Dolphins players also don't care to keep answering Williams question after Williams question.

But the truth is it is a big story. After all, this a guy who set the team record with 1,853 yards rushing in 2002 and followed that up with a 1,300-yard season the next year before suddenly walking away from the game.

Clearly, Williams' return was a bigger story in July at the start of training camp, but this will be his first appearance in the regular season, so there figured to be a lot of national interest.

It's actually kind of ironic that Williams' return coincides with the Ronnie Brown-Cadillac Williams reunion, which amazingly has taken somewhat of a back seat this week.

There are some other players returning from NFL suspensions this week, such as Kansas City's Eric Warfield and John Welbourn, but no one will attract as much attention as Williams.

That was pretty obvious on Wednesday.

The question now is what Williams will be able to do on the field come Sunday.


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