Ricky Williams won over his new teammates long before he rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the Dolphins' 49-21 defeat of the Lions on Sunday. He did it in the spring while running 110-yard sprints in the sticky South Florida heat. During his three tumultuous seasons in New Orleans, Williams wasn't committed to off-season conditioning and readily admits, "If they had asked me to do all this with the Saints, I would've said, 'Hell, no.' " But he changed his ways after Miami acquired him in a March 8 trade.
"He earned our trust. If he hadn't worked like the rest of us, the guys would've been alienated from him," says Dolphins wideout Oronde Gadsden. "To be accepted here, you have to go through the whole process—off-season workouts, minicamps, passing camps, training camp—and also produce on Sundays."
Williams certainly did that against Detroit, displaying the power and toughness that the Dolphins expected in giving up a first-and third-round draft choice to get him. Williams's presence also opened up the play-action passing attack installed by new offensive coordinator Norv Turner; Jay Fiedler completed 18 of 27 throws for 207 yards and three touchdowns. Miami finished with 389 total yards and no turnovers. "Defenses fear Ricky, and that helps us all," says fullback Rob Konrad. "We had a rhythm to our offense that we haven't had in a long time."
It appears that Williams has the drive to be a dominant back, something he clearly lacked in New Orleans. Williams vexed teammates and coach Jim Haslett with his enigmatic behavior, and he skipped 90% of the Saints' off-season workouts before the 2001 season. The determination in February 2001 that Williams has social anxiety disorder helps explain his reclusiveness, but he doesn't use that diagnosis to excuse his actions. "I was still the person who did all those things," he says.
Miami coach Dave Wannstedt says, "Judging from March to September, Ricky has been excellent." Of course, it remains to be seen if Williams can avoid the injuries and fumbles mat plagued him in New Orleans. He thinks people will see that he's a new man. "I've looked at great running backs like Barry Sanders and Marcus Allen, and I know I'm special like mat," Williams says. "And when I look at all the things that have prevented me from reaching that level, I know what the biggest problem was: Me."
Titans Rookie Steps Right Up
After losing Jevon Kearse for at least six weeks with a broken bone in his left foot, Tennessee has turned to rookie defensive end Carlos Hall, a seventh-round draft pick, to fill the pass-rushing void. Hall, who had 12 sacks in four seasons at Arkansas, made three in the Titans' 27-24 win over the Eagles on Sunday. That's one sack more than vaunted end Kevin Carter had in his first 16 games with Tennessee.... Texans defensive tackle Gary Walker, after his team's 19-10 stunner over the Cowboys: "We ruined their season." He's probably right. With Tennessee, Philadelphia and St. Louis next on its schedule, Dallas is likely to start 0-4.
The End Zone
Taking Her Best Shot
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVI, recalls his strangest off-season request: "A girl on my block, a really sweet kid, came to my door and asked me to her high school prom. Imagine how much guts that took. I felt bad, but I politely declined."