Ricky Williams makes quiet CFL debut
By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) – Controversial running back Ricky
Williams made a quiet Canadian Football League debut on Friday,
rushing for just seven yards on four carries as the Toronto
Argonauts lost 31-3 to the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
Banished from the NFL for the 2006 season following a
fourth positive drug test, Williams was welcomed with open arms
by football fans in Toronto, where he will ride out his ban
before hopefully returning to the Miami Dolphins next year.
“I think I did a pretty good,” Williams told reporters.
“Obviously I didn’t get a lot of yards running the ball but
I felt pretty good. It felt good, it felt natural. I’m
different than most players.”
Williams’s arrival in Toronto has sparked a lively debate
on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border over whether the
former-Heisman trophy winner should be allowed to play in the
CFL, which has no formal drug testing.
Earlier this week, former-quarterback Argonaut and
Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann lashed out at the
Argos for providing Williams with a haven to ride out his
one-year NFL ban.
“I’m embarrassed right now to be a Toronto Argonaut,”
Theismann told a Toronto radio station. “The man doesn’t
deserve to play football.
“He should go on with his life and treat his drug
addictions or go do whatever he wants to do.”
Coming under increasing criticism for allowing the league
to become a haven for suspended NFL drug offenders, CFL
commissioner Tom Wright promised to tighten loopholes but would
not single out Williams.
Certainly Toronto fans have no problem with the former-Pro
Bowl running back in an Argonauts uniform.
Despite his off-field problems, Williams has become the
CFL’s biggest attraction and highest paid running back.
The 29-year-old will make only a fraction of what he earned
with the Dolphins but his $240,000 salary will still be tops
among the league’s ball carriers.
Williams, in fact, may have already earned a large portion
of his contract.
A crowd of 21,469 filed into the Rogers Center for the
first pre-season game to catch a glimpse of the Pro Bowl
running back, a massive increase on the 11,000 who passed
through the turnstiles for the last exhibition contest.
The first Dolphin to lead the NFL in rushing, Williams
failed to impress on his debut having yet to come to grips with
the Canadian game that is played on a larger field, with 11 men
instead of 12 and three downs instead of four.
“It was about what I expected,” said Toronto coach Mike
Clemons. “I think it was good maybe that he didn’t do anything
“Now he knows that to be good in this league he is going to
have to work hard. Maybe harder than he ever has in his career.
“He’ll get better with more carries but he ran hard and
that’s what you want.”