Williams, Argos would be nice fit

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

My Canada includes Ricky Williams.

Maybe soon, your Canada will, too.

Williams, the wayward son of the NFL, is being wooed by the Argos.

He is under a year's suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy. It turns out four times is the charm. The first three suspensions involved marijuana.

Newspaper reports say the fourth suspension was for a different substance but you know, you can never believe what you read in the papers.

I hear you. You see this as the kind of story that screams: 'Don't waste my time, he's not coming here.'

I'll be up front. I have no idea whether Ricky Williams will play in Toronto. The only person who knows less than I do about what Ricky Williams is going to do seems to be Ricky Williams, and that makes both of them kind of hard to track.

I'll tell you what I do know.

Ricky Williams would be fun and it has been a real slow winter here in the fun and games department.

I'll tell you what wasn't fun. Fun was not covering the Leafs or the Raptors as they lost 15 of their first 16 games. There were guys on that team who knew they were out of the playoffs before they had worked in their first pair of sneakers.

Williams, a ganja-smoking, right-side thinker, would be the full and worthy successor to Spaceman Bill Lee.

Ricky Williams is nothing at all like Andre Rison, a future Hall of Famer the Argos brought in for depth at receiver. Rison dourly babbled about how the world has done him wrong like a wino on his third bottle of NyQuil.

Ricky Williams is just different. Media covering the Miami Dolphins considered him the easiest person to deal with.

His coach, Nick Saban, consistently praised his work ethic.

Ricky Williams always has liked playing football, just not at the expense of getting high. And so for Williams, the CFL is a kind of football Valhalla, a place with extra room to turn the corner, a place where running north-south isn't so much a way of life but a gentle guideline.

In the U.S., football is life. In Canada, it's a lifestyle decision.

Compared to the NFL, where he could have been tested 10 times a month, the CFL, a place with no substance abuse policy in place, must look positively ideal.

Yes, under normal conditions, Ricky Williams might not consider playing for 10 cents on the dollar of last year's salary. During his drug suspensions, he likes to travel the world searching for enlightenment, or at the very least, a lighter. But there is the small matter of money.

Williams owes the Dolphins $8.6 million US for retiring when he was under contract -- and $8.6 million would buy a lot of enlightenment.

Unless Williams has a spectacular and undeveloped talent, these are his prime earning years.

Future employment, with the Dolphins or with someone else taking a flyer on him, hinges largely on what he does this summer.

If he does not play, he returns to the NFL as a 30-year-old back who has played 12 games in three seasons and has a history of drug abuse.

He has to play, and this the only place he can.

It's not such a tough sell.

DIFFERENT CULTURE

Williams can enjoy a different culture, far from the conservatism imposed by the NFL game.

He would find, in the great Michael Clemons, a man cut outside the mold of the football authoritarians.

The Argos, for their part, would get a premier running back, one who who led the NFL in rushing with 1,853 yards in 2002.

The funny thing about the sports business is that championships are nice, but gate attractions build the business.

The Argos broke the 30,000 barrier this past season and doubled the gate from 2003.

The buzz over Williams, pun fully intended, could boost the gate another 5,000-10,000 or so. For once, demand could outstrip supply and when that happens, it's very good news for the team.

There are lots of reasons why this won't happen, but none for why it can't. And in the spring of 2006, all long shots are welcome.


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