While people close to Ricky Williams say the oft-suspended running back has taken his latest round of counseling from NFL-sanctioned psychologists seriously, there's really a much simpler motivation for his attempt to return to the field:
Play football or possibly go to jail if he gets too far behind in paying child support.
Williams is in that predicament based on the fact that he has a child support agreement with one of the three mothers of his four children. In 2004, Williams agreed to pay $4,200 per month, maintain life insurance and keep approximately $500,000 in a separate fund for the son he had with Cherie Clark. Clark currently lives in Hawaii, but the agreement was reached in Florida where Williams and Clark met.
Williams, serving a suspension since the start of the 2006 NFL season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, is not subject to a reduction in financial responsibility as a result of self-induced changes in income or job status, according to Florida law.
The case law on that revolves around a former utility worker who was fired for sending harassing emails to his ex-wife. When the man asked for a reduction in his child support, he was denied because the courts ruled he was responsible for his own actions.
Attorney Doug Reynolds, who represents Clark, has repeatedly noted that case.
"There are all sorts of ways that Ricky can make money off his ability to play, as well as his fame and notoriety as a football player and we expect he'll exhaust all of those options, starting with playing again," said Reynolds, who added that Williams is currently up-to-date with his payments.
Despite playing six years in the NFL after being the No. 5 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft, Williams is now close to exhausting his funds.
"What kind of (financial) shape do you think he's in?" said a source close to Williams. "Playing in Canada (last season) helped him a lot last year, but he has to play. He knows that."
Williams is ineligible to play in the CFL because of rules adopted by the league after he was signed by Toronto. The CFL, where Williams and former Minnesota running back Onterrio Smith sought refuge during NFL suspensions, is no longer accepting players who run afoul of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
In April, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell instructed Williams to delay his application for reinstatement until after September. It was later reported that Williams had failed a test for marijuana.
On Friday, agent Leigh Steinberg said Williams is set to apply again this week.
"Everything Ricky has said to me is that he'll have the paperwork ready to go," Steinberg said. "He's very excited to get back in the league."
Williams missed the 2004 season when he retired following two failed tests for marijuana in the offseason. Williams was facing a four-game suspension that season, but also had become disenchanted with playing for former Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt.
Williams returned in 2005 after being welcomed by then-coach Nick Saban.
His return to the Dolphins this time is unclear. Steinberg said there has been no contact with the Dolphins of any kind since Saban quit and was replaced by Cam Cameron.
A source said that Cameron, who has steadfastly declined to comment on Williams, might be willing to bring him back on board. However, it's unclear what Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller wants to do. Mueller was the GM with the New Orleans Saints in 2002 and engineered the trade of Williams to the Dolphins.