AS HE LOPED through the Dolphins' first training camp session on Monday, Ricky Williams must have wondered why he ever left football. On his first play he took a handoff and breezed 20 yards into the end zone. He heard cheers from the 1,000 or so fans who showed up. No one shouted him down when he apologized in a team meeting for his abrupt retirement last summer. He even let a few smiles slip during a press conference.
But things will get tougher for the former Pro Bowl running back. He'll sit out the season's first four games for violating the NFL's drug policy last off-season. And Williams, who spent the past year living in Australia, studying holistic medicine in California and yoga in India, must prove all that chilling didn't sap his ability--or desire--to bulldoze tacklers. (His bushy beard can't hide that Williams is far below his 2003 playing weight of 226 pounds.)
He also must win over his teammates, some of whom criticized him for deserting them. So far, so good. "He did what he had to do," center Seth McKinney, who last summer called Williams a "quitter," said of the running back's Monday apology. "Nobody is holding any grudges. We all want him back."