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MOORE notes: Williams puts team first in Miami

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

 
   
 
Nearly two weeks ago, after he was traded to Miami, Ricky Williams sat down with Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt and vowed to be back on April 1 to begin the off-season program with his new teammates. He lied. Three days later, Wannstedt received a call from a Fort Lauderdale real estate agent saying the Dreadlocked One was back in town and had signed a lease. The next day, he was working out at the Dolphins complex and spent the weekend helping out at a football camp run by Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler and linebacker Zach Thomas. Is this the same Ricky Williams who worked out on his own in San Diego last off-season — at a loss of $200,000 in incentives — rather than be seen at the New Orleans Saints practice facility? It appears his defiant pride has been replaced by a desire to forge a relationship with his new teammates. ¿He¿s into it,¿¿ Wannstedt said. ¿He¿s not there hanging on. He¿s working. ¿If that¿s an indication that he¿s excited about this opportunity, then that¿s a good start.¿¿ No one has ever said Williams is a bad guy. Just different. Saints officials and players tell you he won¿t lead and he won¿t follow. He¿s simply there, spinning in his own eccentric universe. That¿s why Miami officials are so encouraged by his initial response to the trade. It shows he¿s excited. It shows he feels responsible for making this work. Speaking of responsible ... Williams had mentioned to Fiedler and Thomas that he would try to make it by their football camp. But after he got on the road the next day, he realized he didn¿t have the address and didn¿t have a number to call. The running back stopped by the Dolphins complex for directions. Williams isn¿t the sort to fit in. It goes against his iconoclastic nature. But in the days since the trade, Williams has shown he wants to become a part of the Dolphins. That¿s important. ¿When I talked to him it was all we, team and us,¿¿ Wannstedt said. ¿There was nothing of, ¿I¿m going to do this or that.¿ That was good and unsolicited. I think he wants to be part of the team. ¿When you come to our team you have to earn your way in from a respect standpoint. How can he do that at this time of year? By showing up and being with the guys, and he¿s doing that.¿¿ The Dolphins are doing their best to structure an environment where Williams can be just one of the guys. The Saints did that last season, and Williams was as happy as he had been in his three years in the league. The Dreadlocked One has the talent to be the man, but not the temperament. Miami will do its best to keep the pressure off. ¿He was the main focus in New Orleans from the get-go, even before he did anything, because of what they gave up to get him,¿¿ Wannstedt said. ¿He will be the focus here early, but he won¿t be, if you know what I mean. ¿We¿ve got five to six Pro Bowl players. Zach Thomas. Sam Madison. Jason Talyor. Tim Bowens. Tim Ruddy. We¿ve got some outstanding players like Olindo Mare. We¿ve got a very good defense and special teams. ¿We¿re going to be able to do a lot of things to keep the pressure off of him. I believe Miami fans and and his teammates are excited about having him here and want to give him a fresh start.¿¿

Belichick the best

Kansas City¿s Dick Vermeil has always shown great respect for his peers in the coaching community. That¿s why his assessment of what Bill Belichick did with New England this past season carries so much weight. ¿You know what I love most about that whole thing,¿¿ Vermeil said. ¿The value of coaching. That coaching job, to me ... you take the 24th ranked defense and the 19th ranked offense and become world champions, it¿s the best I¿ve ever seen done. I don¿t know if that¿s ever happened before. ¿Yes, they win the one game Super Bowl. And if they play the Rams five times, they probably get beat four. But just to get there, to me, was a great tribute to the quality of coaching job Bill and his staff did. It¿s just remarkable. ¿I mean they have kids playing there that other teams, including us, weren¿t interested in acquiring during free agency. Yet they¿re lining up and winning. I think it¿s a tremendous tribute, and I hope it¿s an eye-opener to all owners and management staff of how critical it is to have the right people coaching their football team.¿¿

Last ditch appeal

All signs point to free agent Shannon Sharpe returning to Denver to end his career. But to get there, he will first go through Seattle, where he¿s scheduled to talk with head coach Mike Holmgren next week. ¿It would make sense to me if he went back to Denver,¿¿ said Holmgren, who made a run at Jerry Rice last season before watching the future Hall of Fame receiver stay in the Bay Area with Oakland. ¿He played there and was very good. He knows people there. ¿But hopefully, I¿ll get a chance to talk to him and give him our best shot. We¿ll see.¿¿ The Seahawks are roughly $3 million under the salary cap. Not all of that room will be used for Sharpe, but look for Holmgren to come in with an enticing offer.

The pits

Arizona coach Dave McGinnis sat down with Michael Pittman at the end of the season and had a heart-to-heart with his free agent running back. ¿I want you back, but I know the realities of this,¿¿ McGinnis told Pittman. ¿I would never in any way appeal to you emotionally to take less. It¿s not fair to you, and I won¿t do that. ¿If you decide not to stay because you get a bigger offer elsewhere, I¿ll be your biggest fan wherever you are.¿¿ There¿s a good chance that ¿wherever¿¿ turns out to be Tampa Bay. Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden is intrigued with what the fifth-year back out of Fresno State has to offer. Pittman has led the Cardinals in rushing the last two seasons and also led the team in receiving in 2000. He ranked ninth in the NFC with 846 yards rushing last season and easily would have gone over 1,000 yards if he didn¿t split time with Thomas Jones. Pittman caught 42 passes for another 264 yards. ¿I¿m a Michael Pittman fan,¿¿ said McGinnis, who is resigned to losing Pittman and turning the ball over to Jones, the seventh player taken in the 2000 draft. ¿He¿s a good player. He¿s a high-energy player who has got some shake to him and can catch the ball, a guy who¿s going to be there every day in practice. He¿s a team guy. ¿It¿s purely an economic thing for us, it really is.¿¿ Pittman is attractive to the Bucs because he¿s younger than Ricky Watters or Dorsey Levens. Is he better? Probably not. But in Gruden¿s system, he could put up some impressive numbers.

Waiting in the wings

Chicago has an interest in veteran quarterback Chris Chandler to back up starter Jim Miller. The Bears have made it clear that they are only interested in Chandler as a backup, a move that would clear the club to trade Shane Matthews to the newly formed Florida Gator alumni club in Washington. ¿He doesn¿t want to go in and disrupt any apple cart,¿¿ agent Frank Bauer said of his client. ¿I think Chicago is looking for a strong backup if anything happened to Jim Miller. ¿In this day of free agency, if you have an A player who gets hurt, you¿d better have a B player right behind him. You can¿t go from A to D. If you go from A to D, you lose.¿¿ Look for something to happen soon. David Moore can be reached at his e-mail address, dmoore@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Falcons, Bears, Packers, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Saints, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Ravens, Cardinals, Shane Matthews, Jim Miller, Dorsey Levens, Jerry Rice, Zach Thomas, Tim Bowens, Jay Fiedler, Olindo Mare, Ricky Williams, Thomas Jones

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