Thursday, November 15, 2007 Updated: November 16, 11:55 AM ET
Reinstated Ricky Williams rejoins Dolphins starting Monday
DAVIE, Fla. -- Ricky Williams stood at a window in the Miami Dolphins' player lounge and watched the start of practice as he chomped on an apple, so close to an NFL return he could taste it.
Coach Cam Cameron decided Thursday to welcome Williams back, and he'll be on the field starting with Monday's workout. His first game in nearly two years could come a week later, Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh.
Ricky Williams, running the ball for the Dolphins on Jan. 1, 2006 at New England, has played in only 12 games since retiring in the summer of 2004.
"He'll be a member of this team," Cameron said. "He's a Miami Dolphin."
Williams has tested positive for marijuana at least four times since the Dolphins acquired him in 2002. Miami's franchise-record playoff drought began that same year.
But it's difficult to imagine how Williams could sabotage a team that's 0-9, and so the long, strange trip continues. Cameron said his players favored Williams' return from a 1½-year suspension, and the 2002 NFL rushing champion embraced yet another fresh start.
"I'm at a place now where it's easier for me to appreciate being a football player," he said. "I hated being a football player before."
As part of the NFL drug program, Williams underwent therapy for the past 5½ months in Boston. He declined to discuss the treatment but said he was confident drug testing won't derail his latest comeback.
"If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't have even tried," he said. "I wouldn't have made the effort."
Cameron said his faith in the treatment program and in commissioner Roger Goodell was a factor in allowing Williams to return.
"I have a lot of respect for the commissioner and how he has handled a lot of situations in this offseason, and this situation in particular," Cameron said. "I know how thorough everything was done as it relates to Ricky. For him to be reinstated by our commissioner, knowing what he stands for, that impacted me tremendously."
When Williams' most recent suspension was lifted, he quickly flew to South Florida and met Thursday morning with Cameron.
"The meeting was positive," Cameron said.
For months, Miami's first-year coach had been mum regarding whether he would want Williams. In May, when discussing Williams' latest relapse, the coach said it's difficult to salvage the careers of troubled players.
He conceded an 0-9 record altered his perspective.
"Circumstances have changed," Cameron said. "However, you still rely on the leadership of your locker room and quality professionals like we have, and you get their input, and that was the major part of the decision."
Those endorsements of the decision were as quirky as Williams.
"I don't know if I had a daughter if I'd want her to date him," linebacker Channing Crowder said, "but as a football player, as a teammate, I love him."
Added linebacker Zach Thomas: "He won't be a cancer in the locker room. He has always had a good work ethic. He's always been a good person and a good teammate. Everybody deserves a second and third chance."
And fourth and fifth, apparently, at least in this case.
Other teams were buzzing about Williams, too. Fellow University of Texas alum Cedric Benson, a third-year pro with the Chicago Bears, described Williams' comeback as "awesome."
"We've got this thing that when he gets in the league we're going to compete to see who's the better running back," Benson said. "We always wanted to see who's the better running back."
Ricky's return created a familiar circus-like atmosphere at the Dolphins' complex. Photographers and cameramen began a stakeout across the street at 7 a.m. and awaited the arrival of the elusive running back. He showed up around 11, riding in a team van.
Cameron's daily news conference was almost all about Williams, with not a single reference to rookie quarterback John Beck, who'll make his NFL debut Sunday at Philadelphia.
Williams followed Cameron to the microphones and wrestled with the first question.
"My motivation for coming back to the NFL? Could we start with an easier question?" he said with a chuckle.
"My motivation is to get my life going again. Being out of football in the situation I was in makes it difficult, you know? I want to create a better life for myself and for my family, and being a football player, for me, is a big part of that," he said.
Williams, who has played in only 12 games since retiring in the summer of 2004, said he has been working out for about six weeks and is in "pretty good shape." He offered no prediction regarding when he might play and offered no pledge that his latest chapter with the Dolphins would end on a high note.
"I'm not necessarily looking for it to end on a high note," he said. "It's just going to help me get to where I want to be. I want to get on with my life. I want to go back to school and pursue a profession outside of football. Playing football is the best way for me to get there."
The Dolphins were thinking more in terms of Williams getting them to the end zone. Maybe that will happen, too.