TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 16, 2005) -- Ricky Williams patiently answered every question before finally being whisked away to catch the team bus.
The enigmatic running back returned from a one-year retirement and four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, and his presence spawned hope for the Miami Dolphins despite a 27-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It felt good," Williams said. "It felt like I never left."
Williams spent his year away from football traveling, studying holistic medicine and becoming a yoga instructor, and now is determined to prove he's the same dominant player he was before abruptly turning his back on his teammates in the summer of 2004.
Tampa Bay's Michael Pittman ran for 127 yards and a touchdown to ruin Williams' first regular-season appearance in 22 months. Still, the Dolphins liked what they saw of Williams, who ran for 3,225 yards and scored 25 TDs in his first two seasons in Miami.
"I think a lot of people on the outside were more excited than I was. I mean, it's just another day. ... I try to live every moment to the fullest whether I'm on the football field, at home or whatever I'm doing," Williams said.
"I love what I'm doing. Life gives you different changes. ... You take them all with a smile and with your heart, you're going to have success."
Williams started alongside rookie Ronnie Brown, but was limited to 8 yards rushing on five attempts. The 2002 rushing champion's best run of the day -- 13 yards in the second quarter -- was nullified by a penalty. Brown finished with 22 yards on nine carries.
"He looked quick. He looked fast. He made the right cuts," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "I'm not disappointed at all in the way he played for the first time out of the box."
Tampa Bay (5-1) held the Dolphins (2-3) to 64 yards rushing and created plenty of problems for Gus Frerotte, sacking the quarterback four times and forcing him to fumble twice.
Frerotte completed 21 of 43 passes for 267 yards and no interceptions. While Williams caught a team-high six passes, the Dolphins never really got him into the flow.
"He's still a hard runner. He's still got it, but our defense is tough," Tampa Bay safety Will Allen said. "It's hard to run on us, it's hard to pass on us. But Ricky, he ran hard. He's always going to run hard."
Pittman, filling in for injured rookie Cadillac Williams, scored on a 57-yard run in the third quarter.
Brian Griese threw a 7-yard TD pass to Joey Galloway before leaving the game with a sprained left knee, and Allen scooped up one of Frerotte's two fumbles and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown that put Tampa Bay up 27-6.
Matt Bryant added field goals of 36 and 32 yards to help the Bucs rebound from a 14-12 loss to the New York Jets to match their victory total for last season and equal the best start in team history after six games.
Tampa Bay played without Cadillac Williams, who sat out for the second straight week with a sprained left foot. The Bucs lost Griese in the second quarter when linebacker Zach Thomas rolled into his leg as the quarterback released a pass, and Chris Simms came on in relief.
Griese completed 12 of 16 passes for 120 yards, with eight of his completions going to Galloway, who finished with nine receptions for 96 yards. Simms went 6 of 10 for 69 yards and no interceptions.
"You see some teams that are demoralized by injuries," Simms said. "We're one team ... that's confident we won't miss a beat whether it's the first-string guy or the second-string guy."
The Dolphins hurt themselves with 18 penalties and five turnovers in a six-point loss to Buffalo the previous week and continued to undermine themselves with costly mistakes against the Bucs.
A holding call against center Seth McKinney wiped out Chris Chambers' 34-yard for an apparent touchdown in the first quarter, and Frerotte missed several open receivers for potential big gains that could have swung the momentum.
Saban said Williams "hurt his back a little bit" in the first half but told the coach he was fine.
"Rather than wear him out, we played him about as much as we planned," Saban said. "We'll play him more and more as time goes on and he gets in better and better shape."
Notes: Dolphins DE Jason Taylor missed part of the first quarter with a foot injury, but was able to return. ... Galloway has scored 10 touchdowns in his last 11 games. ... Bucs DE Simeon Rice had his 110th career sack, moving ahead of Greg Townsend for 14th on the all-time list.