Ricky checks out Argos

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

Ricky Williams and his agent may have met with Toronto Argonauts ownership and management to facilitate a deal that will either be announced today or this weekend or collapse completely because of a contentious clause.

The Toronto Sun has learned Williams came to Toronto this week of his own accord to investigate the city and the Argos, who want to sign him pending their ability to satisfy the Miami Dolphins the superstar running back will be back in the NFL next season.

Williams has two years remaining on his Dolphins deal, but is suspended for the entire 2006 National Football League season for his fourth substance abuse violation.

Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, followed his client to Toronto a couple days later for the alleged meeting, which the two initiated. Williams impressed the Argos brass with his character and speculation is a deal has been reached in principle.

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Neither the Argos owners nor team president Keith Pelley would comment. In fact, following a report on the Fan 590 that Williams had been spotted at an Argos practice, the team issued a news release that it had not received permission to talk to the player and would not comment further.

Nobody who attended yesterday's practice saw anyone resembling Williams. Among the people asked were head coach Pinball Clemons, two reporters and various others.

Steinberg told AM640, which broadcasts Argos games, that Williams is in California, where he has been since he lost an appeal to overturn his suspension 31 days ago. Steinberg, who may have been in Toronto or in transit to the city, clearly could be trying to throw off the scent of a deal if it all falls through. He'll be here if the deal is done today.

The Argos placed Williams on their negotiation list the day he lost the appeal and began the process of trying to sign him. Steinberg has been the key middle man between the Argos and the Dolphins.

The Sun reported yesterday that Argos ownership and management have set a date when they will inform Steinberg that they will no longer be pursuing Williams. A source would not specify the date, but wouldn't be surprised if it happens sometime this weekend. Argos' Fan Day is tomorrow, and if the Williams pursuit is still active it will surely be a subject for fans and the media.

But it will be a moot point, according to one analyst, unless a complex legal matter involving the Canadian Football League's option-year clause can be resolved to the Dolphins' satisfaction. If Williams signs a deal, it would be for one year, but would include the option-year clause that is standard with all CFL contracts. Williams could play for one year and then the Argos would release him, but that wouldn't stop another CFL team from trying to claim him within a seven-day period.

However, the CFL allows option-year players a two-month window after the season ends to sign deals in the NFL. When a player signs that deal, no CFL team can claim him.

The wrinkle in all this is that Williams already is under contract to Miami, so technically he would merely be going back to his team. But there is a belief that somehow if he applies for reinstatement in the NFL and it goes longer than the option-year period or there's a legal entanglement, he will still be under contract to the Argos.

There never has been a situation quite like this in CFL-NFL history in which a player under contract in the NFL is trying to sign a CFL deal and the player happens to be one of the most elite at his position. Williams led the NFL in rushing yardage in 2002.


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