Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sports Commentary, July 28

Here's the commentary I did for this week's edition.

Can Ricky Williams save the Dolphins?


The Miami Dolphins should be interesting to watch this fall when the NFL kicks back into gear, thanks to the return of prodigal Fish son Ricky Williams.

Williams disappeared about a year ago, a week before the Dolphins started training camp, reneging on a $5 million per year contract and turning instead to the study of holistic medicine in California.

In an interview with 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace six months later, Williams revealed that hed fled football not just to explore alternative theories of life as he's claimed at other times, but to avoid the public humiliation associated with failing a third 'holistic medicine' test.

So he ran off to Australia and lived in a tent, which sounds a lot like the 1972 kids' book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst, where the main character wakes up with gum in his hair and wishes he could run away to Australia.

Come to think of it, lately Williams has looked like he may very well have gum in his hair, too.

Fast-forward to now. A conciliatory Williams showed up for Miami's training camp (despite expressing an interest in playing for the Oakland Raiders during his 60 Minutes interview), and now has an $8.6 million tab to pay off for breaching his contract last year.

The Dolphins, so far, haven't pressed him for it, and they may very well keep it around to hang over Williams' head if he ever develops that pesky wanderlust again.

It would take him a while to pay off even if they did, since Williams will be playing for just over $400,000 this season after his contract violation disqualified him from most of the bonuses and incentives he earned in years past, and the four-game suspension he has yet to serve will axe about a quarter of his base pay.

Yes, poor Williams has dug himself quite a hole to climb out of, but he just might be able to pull it off. The Dolphins foundered at 4-12 last season without him, and if -- IF -- he's still got what he had before he took off on his vision quest, he could turn this year into a very different season for Miami.

During his two years on the Dolphins, he rushed for 3,225 yards, with 25 rushing touchdowns. Those definitely are not numbers to thumb one's nose at.

Williams' return to training camp isn't going on in a vacuum. Its almost poetically ironic that while he's playing this season, it's anybodys guess as to whether wide receiver Terrell Owens, who was the shining hope of Philadelphia last season, will show up for camp. Last I heard, it's a 50-50 chance.

Same thing for the Colts' running back Edgerrin James and a host of other players. What's the issue? Contract renegotiations. They want more money.

I suppose players who don't have Ricky Williams' history of self-medicating are entitled to a chance to go back to the contract drawing board, but I'll be excited to see if the NFL's Prodigal Son can show them all up for just 400 large a year.