Return would cost Williams money, but maybe not time
By JASON COLE
Running back Ricky Williams could return next season without having to face a four-game suspension from the NFL, but he stands to lose nearly a half-season's salary.
League spokesman Greg Aiello declined to address Williams directly but said it might be within the league's substance-abuse policy for Williams to return without missing any games.
''The program does allow players to serve suspensions while out with injury or while retired,'' Aiello said. ``For instance, if a guy is suspended the first four games, but gets hurt in training camp and is going to miss four games, he doesn't have to serve the suspension after he gets healthy.''
Aiello said the rule is not ''black and white'' on the subject and ``depends on the specifics of the situation.''
However, Aiello said the player would be subject to the fine associated with a suspension. Williams already has a second violation of the substance-abuse policy, resulting in a four-week fine. He admitted to failing a third drug test and would be subject to a four-game suspension and another four-week fine.
Williams has told The Herald that if he decides to return next season, he has been informed by his attorneys that he could do so without serving a suspension.
Based on his 2004 base salary of $3.725 million, Williams would be fined approximately $1.7 million.