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Fins players speak out

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SKOLNICK: Season might be OK anyway

Published July 28, 2004



The shock is subsiding. The season is coming ... fast. You may worry the Dolphins will run from it, like their star runner did.


Yet, oddly, I feel better about the Dolphins' psyche and resolve than in some time.


First, Seth McKinney made me feel better, with his fire. Then Jason Taylor did, with his cool. Even though they feel so differently about what Ricky Williams has done.


Start with McKinney. Saturday at Select-A-Seat Day the new starting center had spoken of his passion to make the playoffs. Sunday he learned how much harder that would be. It hurt. As it should. As fans want it to. So he did what too few offensive Dolphins have done when seasons were circling the drain: He stood up. He spoke out. He told Williams off on national radio, calling his retirement "the ultimate act of selfishness" for how it affected teammates.


Ironically, some teammates didn't care for his candor, wondering what four starts had done to earn spokesman status. Williams didn't care for it either. Tuesday McKinney read a newspaper report in which Williams said the lineman nearly got him killed.


"What Ricky seems to misunderstand is that in a team setting, people are accountable to each other," McKinney wrote Tuesday, by e-mail. "He said he doesn't owe me anything. That would be true if we had no association with each other. However, we are on a TEAM. That's the association we have -- teammates. He owes me AND I owe him -- that's the reality of it. I owe him to block to the best of my ability. I owe him because he makes an offensive line look better than it really is. He owes me to run to the best of his ability, and that is all he owes me as a TEAMMATE. I expect nothing more than that, however I expect nothing less. I may have let someone 'take his head off.' However, I NEVER quit on him."


Then McKinney explained why he felt comfortable speaking up: This wasn't about talent. "It's about quitting, and unfortunately that's what he did. He quit on us. We were teammates -- now I just hope we can remain friends. I am not mad at him -- never was. I am mad at what he did."


He added that Williams owes him no explanation, or "anything outside of this team setting."


Nor does McKinney owe anyone an explanation. He's not big enough to speak? On true teams, all voices are worthy. Especially the ones that care so much.


So I called Taylor on Tuesday not because of his talent, but his perspective. And because he had reportedly called Williams to wish him well.


"First thing, when it ended up happening, I was like, damn, that hurts, that's tough," Taylor said. "I understand where some people are coming from: He's a quitter, he's a traitor, he's selfish, this and that. But at the same time, I step back and say, `Why are they saying that?' Because he's not doing something they want him to do."


So he asked himself why he'd be talking Williams out of it. For Williams' well-being?


"The answer is no," Taylor said.


And this hit home. Taylor has had rough times, too, some publicized. He's visited some rough places. Like Iraq, where he got to know soldiers. So while football is "very, very, very important" to him, it's not everything. Why must it be to Williams? Why couldn't he enjoy the freedom those soldiers were fighting for?


"Obviously, Ricky wasn't happy in this game," Taylor said. "And if this is what he wants to do, then, hell, go do it. The only thing that's tough is the timing. But it is what it is. You can't play this game for someone else."


The timing was terrible. Even teammates who respect Williams' free will -- and feel no loyalty to management -- believe that.


And how would Taylor, who already has fame and money, have been selfish to ask Williams back? "Because I want to win."


Why is that a selfish goal? "Because the man's not happy. It's forcing something."


Which is where this goes from personal to practical, too.


"If he's not happy, and he ends up being disgruntled and showing it, then we have a problem in our locker room with one of our star players," Taylor said.


Taylor would prefer pointing to possibilities. To Travis Minor and Sammy Morris. To New England winning the Super Bowl: "If I remember correctly, Ricky didn't play for them. And the back they had isn't half the back Ricky is."


He would prefer to point the Dolphins toward the future. As a leader should.


"My goals haven't changed," he said. "Look, we got dealt a bad hand. We've got 20 weeks to play it out. I still like our chances."


Taylor says he understands why some teammates are annoyed, and "I will tell those guys Friday, I'm going to tell them to shut the hell up. The man's gone. Who cares? Let's go in the huddle and play. You know, none of us have done anything. ... Ricky's not going to battle with us, in September? So what! Shut up and play."


Seth McKinney had a right to speak.


And now, moving forward, Jason Taylor has the right plan for success.


The Dolphins just might be all right after all.

Copyright ? 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel





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yes but its not so easy to adapt all the time. he could have been hit by a truck, but that would have been way different from him just quitting. the dolphins assumed the role that ricky would have been there all season. now what if he was injured for the year?! it would be just about the same problem, kind of like MV last year. look at what happened in ATL.

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