R. Jay Soward is the first to admit running back Ricky Williams deserves a second chance in life and football.
Though their situations are not exactly the same, the Argos receiver knows all about the National Football League substance abuse policy and the price to pay as a repeat offender.
Soward's career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who drafted him in the first round out of the University of Southern California in 2000, ended the next season because of repeat substance abuse violations.
He resurrected his career with the Argos in 2004, though he still is under suspension in the NFL.
"It's a good situation for the man to get an opportunity to play football," Soward said yesterday. "This is a good way for him to move forward with his life and do positive things."
Williams won't be allowed to play in the CFL, let alone talk to the Argos, who own his rights and begin training camp today, until legal issues are resolved. He's under contract for two more years to Miami and owes the team more than $5 million US in bonus money after quitting in 2004 and being legally forced by the Dolphins to play or pay them.
The Dolphins reportedly are concerned about losing their asset to injury or the possibility of another legal battle.
Because Williams has a chance to play in the CFL, which doesn't strictly prohibit a suspended NFL player, he could have two contracts at once. The CFL contract would include a standard option-year clause that has further muddled the issue, even though the Argos claim -- and reportedly are willing to back with written language -- they will not bind Williams to the added year.
While there have been players who have come to play in the CFL while suspended in the NFL, this situation is considered unique because of Williams' existing NFL contract, the years remaining on it and the contentious bonus payment.
The Argos also are concerned about Williams' character and how it will impact on the organization's image in the community promoting anti-violence and anti-bullying. It has been a contentious issue in the media and among some fans.
"It's not like he's strung out on cocaine or he's alcoholic or he has killed somebody in a (driving under the influence) or anything like that," Soward said. "It was simple mistakes."
SMITH PLANS ON HOLD
Cornerback Adrion Smith still hadn't officially retired yesterday as he awaited final clarification on the Argos' offer to make him a full-time community relations ambassador. Coincidentally, one aspect of the job could involve representing the team in functions in which Williams would speak out against the use of drugs if signed by the Argos.
Offensive tackle Bernard Williams and defensive end Riall Johnson will be absent with permission to start training camp.