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Williams gets back on field

Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2005

 

  Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams runs up field after making a catch during the first day of practice Monday, July 25, 2005, in Davie, Fla. The 2002 NFL rushing champion decided to seek reinstatement after sitting out last season. Williams faces a four-game suspension at the start of the season for violating the league's substance abuse program, yet likely will be able to play in preseason games.(AP Photo/Steve Mitchell) STEVE MITCHELL

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams runs up field after making a catch during the first day of practice Monday, July 25, 2005, in Davie, Fla. The 2002 NFL rushing champion decided to seek reinstatement after sitting out last season. Williams faces a four-game suspension at the start of the season for violating the league's substance abuse program, yet likely will be able to play in preseason games.(AP Photo/Steve Mitchell)

STEVE MITCHELL

DAVIE, Fla. — Back in the Miami Dolphins' backfield Monday, Ricky Williams made all the right moves.

First, he showed up. Then he reached the end zone on his first carry, smiled at cheering fans, apologized for leaving the team in the lurch, said he was done with dope and calmly submitted to a media interrogation regarding his surreal one-year retirement.

One question — the first one — momentarily stumped him, though: Why did he return?

''Why? Why? I don't know. I don't know,'' he said.

Uh-oh. This roller-coaster ride still seems a little rickety.

Greeted with hugs from teammates and cheers from fans, Williams returned to the Dolphins for their opening training camp practice Monday under new coach Nick Saban. Lining up for his first play since the 2003 season, Williams took a handoff from Gus Frerotte and sprinted 20 yards to the goal line.

But there was no defense on the field, and Williams is sure to meet stiffer resistance in the weeks to come as he tries to regain favor and reclaim a starting job.

''Look, we're kind of in the risk-taking business,'' Saban said. ''I've talked to the team about it. I think everybody is accepting of his ability and respectful of him as a competitor. I think everybody is anxious to see that he is committed and to evaluate his level of commitment.''

At a team meeting Sunday after players reported for camp, Williams spoke briefly and apologized for the impact caused by his retirement a year ago last weekend. The Dolphins went into a nosedive and finished 4-12, their worst season since the 1960s.

''There were things about life that I wanted to explore outside of football, and I had never had the chance,'' Williams said at a news conference after practice. ''I realize by making that decision, I affected the team in a negative way and upset a lot of fans.

''I'm very regretful that people were hurt in the process of me doing that. I do realize that to a lot of people it comes off as being very selfish. So I do offer an apology to all the people who were negatively impacted.''

His words of contrition seemed to satisfy teammates, including center Seth McKinney, who a year ago called Williams a quitter.

''In the team meeting, he did what he had to do,'' McKinney said. ''He's a man about it. We're all being men about it. Nobody is holding any grudges. We all want him back. He's a great player.''

Smith agrees to $57 million deal with 49ers

NEW YORK — Alex Smith, the first pick in April's draft, agreed to terms Monday on a six-year, $57 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith will receive a guaranteed $24 million, a lawyer familiar with terms of the deal told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The agreement is expected to set off a run of signings of first-round picks. The other first-rounders to agree to terms are defensive tackle Mike Patterson with Philadelphia, and offensive lineman Logan Mankins, taken by New England with the 32nd and last pick of the first round. Both signed deals Monday.

Smith is expected to compete immediately with Tim Rattay for the starting quarterback job with the 49ers, who finished 2-14 in 2004 and have gone consecutive seasons without making the playoffs for just the second time since 1980.

The 49ers are counting on Smith to grasp their new version of the West Coast offense quickly after playing mostly out of the shotgun for two years at Utah. They are hoping he can be the key piece as the franchise tries to regain the level of dominance it had with Joe Montana and Steve Young under center.

After winning five Super Bowls and playing in nine NFC championship games in 14 years with those Hall of Fame quarterbacks, the 49ers have made it to the NFC title game only once in the last 10 seasons, losing to Green Bay at the end of the 1997 season.

Smith and new coach Mike Nolan have their work cut out. The 49ers have little proven talent at receiver: San Francisco signed veteran Johnnie Morton earlier this offseason to join Brandon Lloyd, Arnaz Battle and 2004 No. 1 pick Rashaun Woods.

Morton and tight end Eric Johnson are the only Niners receivers with more than 60 career receptions.

Smith, who left Utah after his junior season, led the Utes to their first BCS bowl win, a victory over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. They finished 12-0 and were ranked fourth in The Associated Press poll.

This past season, he completed 185 of 280 passes for 2,624 yards with 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also rushed for 563 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Smith, who is represented by Tom Condon, will get $4 million more guaranteed money than Eli Manning, last year's first pick overall, who received $20 million from the New York Giants. Manning also is represented by Condon.

Smith's deal, according to the lawyer, is expected to average $8.25 million compared to about $7.5 million for Manning.

Miami had been waiting for Smith to sign before completing its deal with running back Ronnie Brown, taken second overall. Brown is expected to start for the Dolphins, then could alternate with Ricky Williams, who sat out last season, when Williams returns from a drug suspension after the first four games of the season.

Williams reported to the Dolphins on Monday.

Hours before Smith agreed to terms with the 49ers, Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said the team was anxious for Brown to arrive in camp.

''He's got to wait until the business part of it gets straightened out,'' Taylor said after the Dolphins' first training-camp practice. ''I think everyone understands why he's not here. It's part of the game.''

Dolphins coach Nick Saban also indicated he wasn't surprised Brown was not at the first practice, especially because Miami was the first team to formally open training camp. The Dolphins play their first preseason game on Aug. 8, part of the reason they began practice a bit earlier than usual.

''Our people are doing an outstanding job of trying to get the business end of this done,'' Saban said. ''But I think this is a circumstance that we don't have total control on, based on timing.''



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