Williams wants NFL to clarify his eligibility

MIAMI -- Maybe Ricky Williams is tired of traveling. Maybe
he has run out of books to read. Or maybe he doesn't want to pay
the $8.6 million he owes the Miami Dolphins for breach of contract.

Whatever the reason, Williams wants to rejoin the Dolphins and
has asked the NFL how soon he can return, his agent said Tuesday.

It's unclear whether the 2002 NFL rushing champion must serve a
suspension the rest of this season for repeated violations of the
league drug program. He has asked the league for a hearing to
clarify his status, but no date has been set.

A Dolphins source speaking on condition of anonymity said the
team's understanding is that Williams can't play this year because
of the violations.

Williams left the Dolphins reeling when he retired just before
training camp in late July, and they're off to an 0-4 start, their
worst since 1966. His agent, Leigh Steinberg, declined to discuss
Williams' change of heart.

"All I can tell you is that Ricky has asked me to explore and
to try to facilitate his return," Steinberg said. "He's excited
and in good shape and misses football."

One likely factor for Williams' reversal: On Sept. 24, an
arbitrator ordered him to repay more than $8.6 million to the team
for breaching his contract.

Steinberg and the Dolphins declined to say whether there have
been recent conversations between the two parties.

"This is an issue between the player, his representative and
the league," Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman said.
"Accordingly, we don't have a comment on the matter."

Last week, coach Dave Wannstedt said he hadn't talked to
Williams in about a month.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday that Williams sent a letter to the league requesting a meeting to determine his status.

"We have not yet responded to the letter," Aiello said. "His status in the drug program is confidential. There is nothing more for us to say at this time."

Since retiring, Williams has traveled to Asia and Australia, but
Steinberg said he's now in the United States.

"He's in excellent shape," Steinberg said. "He has been
working out regularly and looks great."

Williams and the Dolphins traded long-distance barbs in the days
after he quit. But the Dolphins' poor start would likely make them
more inclined to take him back.

The 27-year-old running back has given many reasons for
retiring. He expressed a desire to travel, read and continue
smoking marijuana. He said he was unhappy about his contract, a
workload he considered excessive and Miami's new offensive
coordinator Chris Foerster.

He acknowledged testing positive for marijuana three times.
Under league rules, a player in the NFL's drug program faces
suspension if he returns in the calendar year after he announces
his retirement. If he returns after a year, he faces a lesser

The Dolphins might be headed toward their first losing season
since 1988. They have scored only two touchdowns in four games
without Williams, who rushed for 3,225 in two seasons after being
obtained in a trade with New Orleans.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.