Attorney David Cornwell plans to argue to NFL officials today that Miami Dolphins tailback Ricky Williams should be allowed to return from his brief retirement and play immediately. It seems unlikely that Cornwell will convince the league of that, however.
Williams and Cornwell are scheduled to meet with NFL representatives in California. Cornwell recently sent a letter to the league office asking for a clarification of Williams's playing status, and agent Leigh Steinberg said that Williams, who abruptly left the Dolphins just before training camp, had regained his passion for the sport and wants to play again as soon as possible.
The NFL Players Association also is to be represented at today's meeting. Cornwell apparently plans to argue that Williams never officially retired because he never signed any retirement papers. But the league's stance seems to be that doesn't matter because Williams made his intentions known to the Dolphins, who then placed the tailback on their reserve-retired list.
When he left the Dolphins, Williams reportedly was facing a league-imposed four-game suspension because he violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy by testing positive for marijuana. Under the terms of the policy, if a player already in the program retires and then returns in less than a year, he is charged with an additional violation of the policy -- which, in Williams's case, would result in a one-year suspension. People close to Williams, though, say he was appealing his most recent positive marijuana test when he left the Dolphins, and they believe the range of possibilities for Williams includes anything from being eligible to play immediately to being ineligible to play until next season.
It seems unlikely that he ever will play another game for the Dolphins, no matter when he's cleared to play. Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga reportedly was enraged by Williams's departure without warning, and the club likely would trade him when he's allowed to return to the league. The league's trading deadline for this season passed Tuesday, however, and trades cannot be made again until March.
Arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled recently that Williams owes the Dolphins approximately $8.6 million because of provisions in his contract requiring him to repay incentive money and a prorated portion of his original signing bonus from the New Orleans Saints if he refuses to play. People familiar with the case say that ruling would not be affected by a return to the NFL by Williams, and the amount he owes the team would not be reduced by a return.
According to sources familiar with the deliberations, Williams's representatives have been contemplating the possibility of having him file for bankruptcy in an attempt to have his contract with the Dolphins voided, making him a free agent. Florida has debtor-friendly bankruptcy laws, and several Miami-area bankruptcy attorneys said recently they believe it's a near-certainty that a bankruptcy court would void Williams's contract with the Dolphins to try to increase his earning power by enabling him to negotiate a free-agent contract with a sizable signing bonus. Those in Williams's camp believe the league would want to avoid having such a precedent set in a high-profile case like this one, and that might provide Williams with leverage in his dealings with the Dolphins and the NFL.
Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, both 5-0, is only the fourth matchup in NFL history of two unbeaten teams with at least five wins each. It's the first such game in nearly 31 years, since the 6-0 Minnesota Vikings played the 6-0 Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 28, 1973. The 6-0 Buffalo All-Americans played the 6-0 Akron Pros on Nov. 13, 1921, and the 5-0 Canton Bulldogs faced the 5-0 Chicago Cardinals on Nov. 4, 1923. . . .
The 5-0 Philadelphia Eagles have won each of their games this season by at least 10 points. They play at Cleveland on Sunday and can become only the seventh team in NFL history -- and only the second club in 36 years -- to open a season with six straight double-digit victories. It has been done by the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans, the '34 Chicago Bears, the '42 Bears, the '63 Browns, the '68 Dallas Cowboys and the '99 St. Louis Rams. . . .
On Wednesday, the Bears began implementing their plan of splitting the practice-field work with the first-team offense between their struggling new starting quarterback, Jonathan Quinn, and rookie Craig Krenzel. Quinn remains the starter, at least for now, but Coach Lovie Smith is reserving the right to make a switch Friday. . . .
Bears left tackle Marc Colombo participated in his first practice in nearly two years Wednesday. The former first-round draft choice was a starter as a rookie in 2002 when he suffered a dislocated kneecap, and his recovery period was prolonged by nerve damage. The Bears will have to decide in a few weeks whether to activate him from the physically unable to perform list or place him on the injured reserve list. . . .
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has 17 sacks in 21 NFL games. Reggie White got his first 20 sacks faster than any other player, doing so in 22 games. . . .
Miami released Chidi Ahanotu -- a formality after the veteran defensive end left the club last week, unhappy about his role with the team. . . . The Dolphins are having a miserable season but have the league's longest active defensive streak -- 16 games -- of not allowing a 100-yard receiving game by an individual opponent. That string will be put to a severe test Sunday, when the Rams play at Miami. The Washington Redskins, at 12 games, have the league's second-longest active streak. . . . The Dolphins considered making another starting-quarterback switch this week but are sticking with Jay Fiedler. . . .
The Rams signed kicker Jeff Chandler in case Jeff Wilkins is sidelined this weekend by a left ankle injury. . . . Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez has 492 catches in 116 games. Kellen Winslow Sr. reached 500 receptions in fewer games -- 101 -- than any other tight end in NFL history. Ozzie Newsome is second on that list, reaching 500 catches in his 120th game. . . .
The New York Giants have been one of the league's surprise teams this season, with a record of 4-1 entering Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Giants Stadium. They're well rested as they return from their bye week, but that hasn't always been an ideal situation for them. The Giants are 3-12 in their history after byes, and have lost seven of their past eight post-bye-week games. First-year Giants coach Tom Coughlin was 5-3 in post-bye-week games while with Jacksonville. . . .
Rookie Jamaar Taylor apparently remains the leading candidate to replace Tim Carter, who's sidelined for the rest of the season by a fractured hip, as the Giants' No. 3 wide receiver. Coughlin says he still has David Tyree and Willie Ponder under consideration as well. . . .
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden said during a news briefing Wednesday that he won't decide until the end of the week whether wide receiver Joe Jurevicius will be a starter this weekend in his first game of the season. Gruden said he will pick between Jurevicius, who's coming off preseason back surgery, and Bill Schroeder. . . . Bucs second-year quarterback Chris Simms still isn't ready to return from a sprained throwing shoulder, Gruden said.
Sherman Remains Play-Caller
Green Bay Packers Coach Mike Sherman plans to remain the team's offensive play-caller this week. He assumed the duties last Sunday at Detroit because Packers offensive coordinator Tom Rossley was home recovering from an angioplasty, and Green Bay overwhelmed the Lions, 38-10. Rossley said during a news briefing Wednesday that he'll offer Sherman advice from the press box during Sunday's game against Dallas and the following weekend's contest against the Redskins at FedEx Field. The Packers have a bye after that and will reassess the setup then. . . .
Packers tailback Ahman Green has shed his trademark forearm pads in an attempt to cure his fumbling problems. . . . Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich has a bruised left (non-throwing) shoulder and a sprained right ankle and sat out most of Wednesday's practice, but is planning to start Sunday at Indianapolis. . . . Jaguars defensive lineman Willie Blade was suspended for a week by Coach Jack Del Rio for conduct detrimental to the team, reportedly for missing a team function. . . .
Pittsburgh placed nose tackle Casey Hampton and safety Mike Logan on the IR list Wednesday. Hampton suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last weekend, and Logan has a hamstring injury. The Steelers signed defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy, who will back up new starter Chris Hoke, and safety Tyrone Carter, a former starter for the Vikings and Jets. . . . Steelers cornerback Chad Scott will be sidelined four to six weeks because of a damaged quadriceps. . . .
Wide receiver Randy Moss sat out the Vikings' practice Wednesday because of his strained hamstring muscle. The Vikings say they will make a decision Sunday about Moss's availability for their game against Tennessee. . . .
Safety Lawyer Milloy participated in Buffalo's practice Wednesday and appears set to be in the Bills' lineup Sunday at Baltimore. He has been sidelined all season because of a fractured forearm. . . . Defensive tackle Sam Adams worked with the starters during the Bills' practice Wednesday, meaning that he apparently has been forgiven for an outburst at the coaching staff during Sunday's triumph over the Dolphins. . . .
The Browns could be without wide receiver Andre Davis against the Eagles because of a sprained toe. . . . Rookie Nick Hardwick regained his starting job as San Diego's center after missing two games following arthroscopic knee surgery -- displacing former starter Jason Ball, who lost the job because of an ill-conceived holdout in a contract dispute.
D. Hall Ready For Debut
The Atlanta Falcons expect rookie cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the eighth overall choice in the draft in April out of Virginia Tech, to play in his first regular-season NFL game this weekend. He's been sidelined since suffering a fractured left hip in a preseason game. . . .
Falcons defensive tackle Rod Coleman is to miss his second straight game since being involved in a single-car accident early Saturday. Coleman underwent surgery Tuesday to repair damage to the medial collateral ligament, posterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He also suffered a shoulder injury when he steered Cadillac Escalade off the road to try to avoid a deer around 4:30 a.m. According to a police report, Coleman had been drinking but passed a series of field sobriety tests and was determined by an officer not to be legally impaired. No charges were filed. Coleman will not be subject to league disciplinary action but could be sanctioned by the Falcons, who have not given a timetable for his return to the lineup. First-year coach Jim Mora Jr. had at least one testy exchange with reporters this week about the team's reluctance to disclose details of the accident or Coleman's injuries. . . .
Quarterback Tim Couch, the former top overall pick in the draft by Cleveland, could be nearing a return to the league and appears to be drawing interest from Chicago as well as Indianapolis and perhaps a few other teams. Couch has been out of the league resting and rehabilitating the sore arm that plagued him during training camp and the exhibition season, contributing to his release by Green Bay before the season. The Packers had hoped that Couch would be their backup quarterback this season after signing him following his offseason release by the Browns. Couch has filed a grievance against the Packers charging that they improperly released him while he was injured. The Colts have been interested in him for weeks as a prospective backup to Peyton Manning. The Bears also could be in the running to sign him but recently added Chad Hutchinson to go with Quinn and Krenzel. . . .
An MRI exam revealed a tear in a ligament in the right ankle of Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. The injury originally was thought to be a sprain. Ogunleye will be sidelined this weekend and the club did not immediately offer a timetable for his return.