Ricky saga nothing new for Argos

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

This awkward dance with Ricky Williams smacks of a contradiction the Argos cannot run from.

It is the same position they find themselves in, over and over, forever balancing on the tightrope between what's right and what's football.

And a time when talk of the suspended running back coming to Toronto has hit a public fascination that long ago seemed severed, the Argos insist their pursuit of Williams will not compromise the fine branding of their franchise.

The Argos have become this extraordinary entity in so short a time. They have built a model franchise of sorts, almost from double blue ashes.

They run clinics for kids and coaches.

They go to schools and talk about bullying -- just about every day of the year.

They don't just pay lip service to stopping violence in the city, they actually roll up their sleeves and offer reasonable alternatives and solutions.

They do everything we want our teams to do. And then a Ricky Williams suddenly becomes available and they do their best not to trip over their own social responsibility on the way to signing a most gifted athlete.

It is almost amusing to watch the Argos do the justification shuffle in the case of Williams, who has four times been suspended in the NFL for violating league substance abuse policies. Keith Pelley, the sparkplug Argos president who has played such a significant role in the altered perception of the football franchise, even offered up that the Argos would consider drug-testing Williams should he be given the go-ahead to play in Toronto.

That is rich, of course, even for the Argos. They say they will consider testing Williams and won't do anything to compromise their own reputation.

And I wonder, why test only him?

Did they ever consider testing Bernard Williams, the offensive tackle, who admittedly failed 15 NFL drug tests prior to being banished from the league?

Have they ever tested Robert Baker, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling cocaine on the campus of Auburn University?

Have they ever tested receiver R. Jay Soward, who was suspended at USC, suspended in the NFL and once missed a drug test reportedly because he "fell asleep on a toilet."

And while the pursuit of the magnificently talented Ricky Williams has been ongoing, another pursuit has not been followed so closely.

Adam Rita, the Argos general manager, admits the team is trying to bring Hakim Hill back for training camp. That is, if they can get him in the country.

Hill was an Argo last season until he, um, was forced to leave Canada to deal with pending charges. This is a guy who was kicked out of two universities, accused of forcing a girl to have sex with him in a classroom in high school, has more than one drunken driving charge against him, and apparently punched out a police officer -- but he can run the football.

If you want to really stop the violence, why not start right here and leave Hakim Hill at home. But they don't -- because he can play.

This is where the Argos trip over themselves. On a scale of those who have been here -- including the famed wide receiver Andre Rison, who essentially was a fugitive during his time in Canada -- Ricky Williams may be famous, but he's almost a small-timer in this group.

Williams smoked marijuana. Who hasn't? He didn't sell cocaine. He didn't rape anybody. He didn't rob anybody.

The only time he ever was a distraction to his team is when he decided not to show up for the Miami Dolphins' 2004 season.

For public consumption -- in a world where image means everything -- the Argos figure they must come clean in how they approach Williams. They want to be certain the public understands and approves.

There is no objection here should Williams get cleared to play for the Argos. The objection is with the Argos altering policy for one famous player to create the illusion that this is something they haven't seen before.

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