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Saban praises, offers support to troubled Williams

INDIANAPOLIS -- Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban is offering
his support to troubled running back Ricky Williams.
In his first comments about Williams' latest failed drug test,
Saban said Friday he wanted to help Williams stay clean, avoid any
additional trouble and help the NFL keep drug tests confidential as
required by league rules.
"We want to support every player, and I think every player
knows he has a responsibility for what to do and what not to do,"
Saban said. "As a coach, I also feel a responsibility to put a
player in the best situation possible so he can have success."
Saban lauded Williams' performance last season and was upset he
even had to address the issue at the NFL's annual scouting combine.
In his opening remarks, Saban asked the media to respect the
league's rules, and after persistent questioning, Saban became
testy in his responses.
He appeared most upset by the fact word leaked out about
Williams' latest test. The results are being appealed, but no
ruling is expected until April.
Saban insisted he would work with the league office to assure
other players' results remain confidential.
"We all have a professional responsibility as clubs to live by
the confidentiality rules, which are designed to protect players,"
Saban said. "However the information got out, I hope those people
will take that responsibility and let us make any necessary
changes. ... I'm going to be proactive in that effort."
Saban said he has talked to Williams, who is on a retreat in
India, but has not asked the former rushing champ to return to the
U.S. to deal with the situation. He declined to discuss the nature
of his conversation.
Yet he seemed empathetic toward Williams, who has now violated
the league's substance-abuse policy for the fourth time. Williams
could be suspended for the entire 2006 season.
Previous positive tests were for marijuana, which Williams
acknowledged using. But the latest test involved a drug other than
marijuana, a person familiar with the case told The Associated
Press on Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because
of the NFL policy.
"Ricky did a fantastic job for us this year," Saban said. "If
someone said, 'Who have you enjoyed coaching the most in all my
years of football,' he'd be one of the top guys I've ever been
around."
Last year, Williams missed the first four games of the season --
because of a failed drug test -- and split rushing duties with
rookie Ronnie Brown. Williams rushed for 743 yards and scored six
touchdowns, the second highest total on the team behind receiver
Chris Chambers.
Williams retired and sat out the 2004 season. He still owes the
Dolphins $8.6 million for breaching his contract, and was motivated
to return to football at least partly by the need for a paycheck.
Since returning last season, the NFL has required him to undergo
drug tests up to 10 times a month.
Saban said he was hopeful Williams could win the appeal.
"This is not something etched in stone until the league makes a
ruling," Saban said. "But we plan to give ourselves the best
possible plan."