Ricky Williams's representative said yesterday that he expects the former Pro Bowl tailback to report to training camp on Sunday with the Miami Dolphins.
Agent Leigh Steinberg said he planned to send a letter to the league office asking the NFL to reinstate Williams this week. Williams sat out last season after abruptly retiring just before the Dolphins reported to training camp last summer, and he's facing a four-game suspension at the outset of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Under terms of the NFL's drug policy, Williams technically is not eligible to be reinstated until the middle of next week -- one year after he officially retired -- but his representatives are optimistic that the league will permit him to report to camp Sunday. The Dolphins' opening practice is Monday.
"Pending league acceptance, he's very hopeful of reporting with the other Dolphin players," Steinberg said by telephone from his office in Newport Beach, Calif.
The Dolphins never recovered from Williams's abandonment, struggling to a 4-12 record while their former star runner traveled the world. Many in the organization, including some players, were incensed at Williams and vowed to never accept him back, and the team won an $8.6 million judgment against Williams for breach of contract.
But from the moment he joined the organization, Coach Nick Saban left open the possibility of Williams returning. Saban, hired in December after Dave Wannstedt resigned in November, smoothed over the club's relationship with Williams even after the Dolphins selected Auburn tailback Ronnie Brown with the second overall pick in the NFL draft in April.
Williams, 28, has been working out in the Miami area and recently re-entered the league's drug testing program. Steinberg and the Dolphins have put off addressing the difficult issues still facing them -- a possible settlement of the $8.6 million judgment and an agreement on Williams's salary for the 2005 season. A clause in Williams's contract allows the team to reduce his salary from $3.7 million to $540,000 because of his retirement.
"This is a step-by-step process," Steinberg said. "We've postponed dealing with those issues. . . . He's training in Miami and he's very excited about the upcoming season." . . .
The Buffalo Bills traded running back Travis Henry to the Tennessee Titans for a third-round draft pick in 2006. . . . New York Jets cornerback Donnie Abraham retired, ending his nine-year career.
-- Mark Maske