With Ronnie Brown out for at least Thursday night's game in Carolina - and likely longer - the focal point of the Dolphins' offense will once again be Ricky Williams. And this week, of all weeks, the power running game is especially important for Miami. Why? With short rest and little preparation time, the game plan on Thursday is pretty simple - run, run, and then run some more.
The Panthers are 25th in the league in stopping the run and allow 4.6 yards per carry. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have had to adapt to a very different kind of week. The players were in on Monday to do film work. They then hit the practice field on Tuesday - except it was like a typical Friday practice (shorter and less physical than usual). The team will go through a walkthrough on Wednesday before boarding a plane to Carolina later in the day. With less than ideal preparation time, I expect the Dolphins to get back to the basics - pounding the rock.
The major difference this week is that the spotlight will not be on Ronnie and Ricky. It'll just be on Ricky. Does Williams have the skill and talent to be successful as the workhorse running back at the age of 32 like he did five or six years ago? Probably - but he doesn't seem to be relishing the role.
Or, at least, he isn't relishing the spotlight that he's suddenly been thrust into.
It's been well known that Ricky isn't exactly a fan of the media - or of any kind of attention, for that matter. But on Tuesday, Ricky made it clear how much he doesn't like speaking with the media.
If you haven't read it, Ricky spoke with the media today for the first time in a long time. You can read it here, but it's really not much of a read. In fact, Ricky never even gave an answer longer than a sentence. And the one minute and thirty-six second interview ended very abruptly:
Reporter: "We've heard you say before you prefer not to throw out of the Wildcat...
Ricky: "All right, I'm done!"
I actually received the full audio of this brief interview from a source of mine and let me just say that when you listen to the interview itself, it is far more awkward than the transcript of it even conveys.
So what gives? My initial reaction to reading the transcript of the interview was that Williams wasn't exactly excited about once again being the workhorse of Miami's backfield. After all, it's been widely reported that one of the things that drove Williams to retirement was that he just didn't enjoy the pounding he took week in and week out for years as a lead back. Now with Ronnie out for at least Thursday's game, Ricky will once again be asked to take that pounding.
But then that same source that sent me a copy of the audio from today's interview also gave me some insight into why Williams decided to talk after weeks of abstaining.
There's a rule in the NFL that states a player must make himself available to the media at least twice per week - once after a game and at least once during the week. Williams, however, has not lived up to that expectation this year. I'm told that outside of having a good relationship with one of the Sun-Sentinel's writers - and it's not Omar Kelly - Ricky hasn't spoken with the group of reporters all season.
So why now?
As I'm told, the reporters decided to make sure that Ricky would do what the NFL mandates and speak to the media - even if he doesn't want to. So they decided to tell Dolphins VP of Public Relations Harvey Greene that if Williams continued to avoid speaking with the media, they would notify the NFL Players Association. That would lead to a warning letter from the NFLPA and an eventual fine if Ricky failed to comply.
Clearly, the Dolphins then informed Ricky of the situation - and the fine he would risk receiving if he failed to meet with the media. The Miami Herald confirms that Ricky was informed of the situation. This is likely what led to that uncomfortable minute and a half interview. Ricky's short responses simply seemed like a giant middle finger at all of them for forcing him to speak.
And I say, "Good job, Ricky!"
I understand that the media is just trying to do their jobs. But why can't they just leave the poor guy alone. He's not comfortable speaking with the media - and he never has been. Just let him be. Don't go to his employer as a group and basically tattle tale on the man - making threats and forcing him to do something he doesn't want to do.
If nothing else, at least approach Ricky man to man - not as a group - and just explain to Williams the situation. They all should know about Ricky's issues with dealing with the media, anyways. This shouldn't come as a shock. And I'm sure the way Williams was portrayed by the South Florida media during his "past issues" probably doesn't help endear them to Williams, either - which is perfectly understandable.
Now the media will tell you they were just trying to do their jobs and help us fans get some information about the team we all love. But I think most fans would agree that we don't need Ricky to do any talking during the week. We hardly ever get any good info from player interviews, anyways.
In my opinion, all the talking Ricky needs to do is on the football field. That's all I care about.