Posted: Tuesday March 22, 2005 8:40PM; Updated: Tuesday March 22, 2005 9:02PM
"It's a work in progress,'' said Saban, asked where Miami's talks with Williams head next. "There's no endpoint to it. There's a lot of issues relative to the personal and professional that really he needs to make decisions on. We're just trying to support someone who may or may not be committed to doing something he's capable of doing.
"This is as clear as it gets. We're not slamming the door on him. The lines of communication have been opened, so that if there is a commitment, the possibility exists that he has an opportunity to be supported in coming back to the Dolphins.''
If Williams did return to Miami, Saban indicated his offense wouldn't rely on any one running back as much as the Dolphins did with Williams in 2002-03, when Dave Wannstedt's Dolphins gave him a whopping 775 carries. Saban wants a more balanced offensive scheme that "utilizes all the explosive players on the field.'' New Dolphins offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has presided over a pass-heavy attack in Minnesota the past few years, but the Vikings also led the league in rushing in 2002, during his tenure.
"[Williams] would be effective in what we're talking about,'' Saban said. "He's a very good player and I don't think you have to play 'wadball' for him to be effective. Do you know what 'wadball' is? Everyone gets wadded up in the middle of the field and you plunge them into the middle of it and let them run over everybody. That's 'wadball' to me. Everybody's in a wad.''
This much seems clear regarding Saban's approach to the enigmatic Williams: The days of the Dolphins getting their undies in a wad over their unreliable former star are over. Miami these days is considering Williams nothing more than a fallback, not a lead running back, as they continue to scout the draft's big three of Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams of Auburn, and Cedric Benson of Texas.
"Running back is obviously a situation we need to address,'' Saban said. "I know people are interested in the options because there are a lot of running backs right now who are available. But in situations like this, you have to have contingency plans. It's not very prudent to count on the what ifs, so to speak. So we will definitely have a contingency plan in place to make sure that we can be productive at that position. That's the fair thing to do from an organizational standpoint.''
Luckily for the Dolphins, they do have options at the position this year. There's the running back-heavy top of the draft, and all those veteran backs who are on the trading block. Of all the potential scenarios, the return of Ricky Williams to Miami would easily rate as the most surprising.
But it wouldn't be the first time Williams has surprised us, now would it?