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Ricky Williams reinstated, Dolphins get two-week roster exemption

Ricky Williams was reinstated by the NFL on Wednesday after being suspended for more than 18 months, and the winless Miami Dolphins may welcome him back.

DAVIE, Fla. -- Ricky Williams was reinstated by the NFL on Wednesday after being suspended for more than 18 months, and the winless Miami Dolphins may welcome him back.

The 2002 league rushing champion was scheduled to fly to South Florida for a physical on Thursday and meet with Miami coach Cam Cameron, said Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg.

The first-year Dolphins coach, whose team is 0-9, has given no indication publicly he welcomes the return of Williams. But Steinberg said he was encouraged by a phone conversation on Wednesday with Matt Thomas, Dolphins general counsel-football administration.

"His indication was they were interested in Ricky," Steinberg said. "The spirit of the discussion was welcoming. It was a very similar discussion to what you would have regarding a draft choice or any returning player. The only contingent was whether they would have him practice Friday or Monday."

The Dolphins offered no immediate comment on Williams' reinstatement. His return would be only part of backfield shakeup -- rookie quarterback John Beck was promoted to the first team Wednesday and will make his NFL debut Sunday at Philadelphia.

The 30-year-old Williams, who has played in only 12 games since the start of the 2004 season, was suspended in April 2006 after violating the league drug policy for the fourth time. His return was delayed when he tested positive again for marijuana in April.

He played in the Canadian Football League last season and applied for reinstatement Oct. 1.

Williams is eligible to attend team meetings and practice immediately, but the earliest he would be allowed to play in a game would be against Pittsburgh on Monday night, Nov. 26. The team will have a roster exemption for up to two weeks if and when he starts practicing.

"Ricky worked extremely hard to meet the requirements for reinstatement," said his attorney, David Cornwell. "He is grateful for commissioner Goodell's decision. Ricky is committed to making the most of the opportunity to rejoin the NFL."

Williams rushed for 3,225 yards in the 2002-03 seasons after he was traded to the Dolphins from New Orleans. He retired in 2004, traveling in India and Australia before returning to the Dolphins in 2005, when he ran for 743 yards while alternating with rookie Ronnie Brown.

Brown was placed on injured reserve after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, leaving the winless Dolphins short on running backs.

As part of the NFL drug program, Williams underwent therapy for the past 5 1/2 months in Boston and benefited from the treatment, Steinberg said.

"This is the program working exactly as it should -- treating a player for an underlying life problem in a positive and sophisticated way, and returning him to health," Steinberg said.

Steinberg said Williams has been working out and weighs a fit 230 pounds.

"The Dolphins, or whatever team, is getting a highly motivated player with a new lease on life," Steinberg said.

Perhaps the Dolphins can be persuaded. But in May, when discussing Williams' most recent relapse, Cameron said it's difficult to salvage the careers of troubled players.

"The easiest predictor of future behavior is previous behavior," the coach said.

Coincidentally, Miami general manager Randy Mueller traded Williams to Miami when both were with the Saints. Since that deal, the Dolphins have endured a five-year playoff drought, the longest in franchise history.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.

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