by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
The rumors we’ve heard over the past several months appear to be true.
Ricky Williams is likely to return to the Miami Dolphins, to don his #34 jersey once again and get back to doing what he has always done best…running with a football.
This after spending almost a year smoking pot and trivializing its use, betraying his colleagues, cheating the fans, and turning his back on the community.
Now Ricky supposedly wants to return to the Dolphins and for everything to be OK.
Isn’t it strange how no one seems to be overly concerned?
Start with the players, who have more reason than anyone to harbor anger and resentment towards Ricky.
Yet, just two months ago, quarterback A.J. Feeley offered up this odd perspective on the matter: "I don't fault him. I'd welcome him with open arms."
So Ricky was right to walk the way he did? All’s forgiven and forgotten, A.J.?
Perhaps it is Feeley who has forgotten…forgotten how badly he struggled last year, partly due to the lack of a credible running game to support him. Ricky’s absence helped make Feeley’s life, personally and professionally, more difficult last year than it needed to be.
Perhaps Feeley has forgotten the embarrassment and disgrace of going 4-12. Yes, Ricky’s quitting was only one of many reasons for the downfall. But it was a big one.
Perhaps Feeley has forgotten about all of the people Ricky hurt by his actions.
Of course the salient question here is whether or not Feeley’s words represent the true general opinion of the team.
Could this be a case of the players not wanting to come out openly against the wishes of the head coach? After all, crossing one’s boss can be a terminal act…especially in the NFL (Not For Long).
How do the players truly feel about having Ricky back in their locker room and on the team? Are they really willing to let bygones be bygones? Or is Ricky a pariah and a distraction that they’d rather avoid?
From a pro personnel perspective there is no question that the Dolphins need every good player they can get, especially on offense. Pairing Williams up with first round pick Ronnie Brown would make the Dolphins a very tough team to defend, especially in the fourth quarter.
This assumes that the Dolphins would be getting the player that they traded for three years ago.
By his own admission, Williams is about 40 pounds lighter than he was when he quit. (Ed. Note: Ricky’s weight is generally reported to be 195 pounds right now). For a player whose game is based on punishment and power, this is not a good thing.
Strength and Conditioning Coach John Gamble must be wondering how much work will be needed to get Ricky into playing shape.
Yes, Ricky has time to re-gain the weight…especially given the fact that he
will have to serve a four game suspension should he decide to return. And while
Ricky claims to be in shape, the Dolphins won’t know what this means in terms
of proper football conditioning until they get him into
There’s also the question of Ricky’s true motivation for returning. Love of football or need for money?
It surely isn’t a sense of loyalty to his teammates or the fans, the very people that pay his salary.
When the going gets tough, when the pain of Sunday collisions returns to his body, will Ricky’s heart be strong enough to get ready for the next game without returning to marijuana? Or, will he begin to dream of his bong and his tent in the Australian outback and let the team down again?
All things considered, one wonders what kind of a message Saban is sending by welcoming Williams back.
Is he telling the fans that he doesn’t care that they suffered last year? Or, is he saying that their pain will be cured with wins in 2005…especially if Ricky is back to his old self?
Is he telling the players that he doesn’t care that their season was ruined? Or, is he saying that he knows things weren’t right with the team last year but that Ricky’s return will help to improve the team?
Is he telling owner H. Wayne Huizenga, who was clearly surprised by Saban’s actions, that it is OK for players to shirk their responsibilities and embarrass the franchise? Or, is he saying that it is in the team’s best interest to have a motivated player on the field versus an extra $8.6 million in the bank?
The only thing Saban has publicly said to justify Ricky’s return is that he views it in terms of value to the franchise, nothing more. As for the past, it wasn’t on his watch.
In his own words, “I'm not saying what happened is OK. But I wasn't here for it, OK?”
One wonders if Saban would be as dismissive if he had been the one Williams had walked out on.
As for everyone else, Saban’s message is simple: Get over it.
And Saban’s right to a degree; everyone will ‘get over it’ if Ricky returns to the form that placed him at the top of the team’s record books.
In all fairness to Saban, his reputation as a leader of men makes him well suited to handle sticky situations like Ricky’s. If anyone can make this work in a positive fashion, it is Saban.
Still, Saban would do well to continue to heed his own counsel with regards to troubled players.
"History is probably the greatest indicator of what the future is going to bring. Any time someone has a problem in their history, it may be a red alert to problems in the future."
Caveat emptor, Dolphins.