Williams 'a big deal'

Suspended NFL star Ricky Williams, beginning his one and only season as an Argonaut yesterday,...

Suspended NFL star Ricky Williams, beginning his one and only season as an Argonaut yesterday, chats with veteran quarterback Damon Allen, who is entering his 22nd year as a pro. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

He participated in the team tradition of welcoming new players by introducing himself and explaining a bit about his interests.

And then Ricky Williams did his talking on the field.

On a day as hot as summer in Miami, the running back on loan from the Dolphins impressed onlookers -- including his Argos teammates -- with his talent.

"He's very bright, he's very intelligent, he has picked things up quickly already," Argos offensive co-ordinator Kent Austin said yesterday after practice. "We've just got to get his foundation up first. Athletically, he's quick. I watched him in the ball drills and he can catch the ball. He's obviously a strong runner. He's gifted.

"It's very rare that this league gets a player of his calibre in his prime. Sometimes you get them later on in their career or you get them early before they have a chance to blossom. We caught him at the peak of his career. It's a big deal."

Quarterback Damon Allen, who is entering his 22nd season in the Canadian Football League, said that Williams "looked good in his uniform. He looked fit."

The simple, but slightly amusing comment, drew some chuckles from the media, which included some from the U.S. who are here to chronicle Williams. Allen said the real test will come in the days and weeks ahead.

"Can he run the football? Is he picking up the offence and all those things that you're always concerned with when you come late to training camp?" Allen said. "It seemed like he was able to adapt. You could really tell what kind of football player he is as far as his work ethics, preparing and all those things. He's a true professional.

"He was able to pick up the offence, run the plays. You didn't have to tell him a lot of times. He was able to see what we're trying to do and step in and do it. That shows signs he's football smart along with having a great ability to play the game."

The humble Williams, engulfed in the media scrum, took it all in stride.

"Football is football. You have to approach it with confidence," he said.

Asked about his initial practice, he replied: "I made it. I survived. This is my first day."

He also addressed the touchy subject of John Avery, whose starting tailback job is in jeopardy because of Williams' arrival.

"I wouldn't say I'm replacing him," he said. "We're teammates." He also said it shouldn't take long to learn the nuances of the offence and the Canadian Football League.

"This is a process," he said. "This is the 10th or 11th offence I've had to learn. I'm a pretty quick study."

He praised the city of Toronto.

"It's not so much about your skin colour. They look at you as a person," he said.

He also praised the atmosphere with the Argos.

"Here, it's the real deal," he said. "Coaches like to say they have a family atmosphere, but not always. In Miami, we had a real good bunch of guys, not as much in New Orleans (where he began his pro career in 1999)."


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