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More from Casserly and Sparano on Ricky

I wrote a column in today's Miami Herald about Ricky Williams and how he just might be the best player on the Dolphins roster and was definitely the best player on the team during the offseason practices.

I talked to former Houston and Washington GM Charley Casserly,and coach Tony Sparano about that subject for my column and they didn't disagree with me. But they said Ricky, for all his apparent abilities and despite shining in the offseason, still has a way to go to regain the form he had years ago.

And that cannot be argued. Remember we're talking about a guy who ran for 1,853 yards once upon a time.

So what does Ricky have to do to get back in the same vicinity as the player he once was? What are the signs he's doing it or not?

"The biggest key for Ricky will be getting back into a contact situation -- getting behind the line when it's live on the other side of the ball and really starting to feel those bumps and bruises a little bit and seeing where we are at that point," Sparano said.

"I'm curious to watch him because of his offseason and his strength and all the things that have come into play for him that we're seeing. I have a feeling he's going to feel pretty good."

Sparano thinks Williams will feel good because he's worked diligently this offseason preparing for that moment when the contact comes. But Casserly, who witnessed a couple of Dolphins practices and talked to several coaches afterward, says there will be more to look for once the contact begins.

"First of all, no one can say definitively how he's going to do," Casserly said. "We'll start there. The points to look at will be, one, there will be a learning curve. That goes for Ronnie Brown, too. It's a new offense. So there's a learning curve he'll go through hitting the holes with the new offensive line.

"Then he's got to get his legs back under him, he's got to get the speed of the game back. So if I'm watching him, half the time I'd be trying to figure out if he's still getting used to the system or is it him trying to get his legs back under him and where he is in his career.

"The next thing I would look for are burst and explosion. Does he have the explosion on contact where he still can knock guys back and then burst with speed? If you see that, then things are coming together. If you don't see that, then age caught up with him."

Casserly has one area of concern that I share that would show us Williams is losing it: Injuries. With the exception of an ankle injury early in his career, Williams has been able to play through injuries most of the time. But lately -- during his Canada experience and again last season when that Pittsburgh jerk player stepped on him -- Williams has suffered injuries.

"The injury factor is key," Casserly said. "Is he going to be able to take the hits? He's [31] years old. The good thing is they're not asking him to be the main back. They're asking him to play a role. Clearly, he's going to be hungry. There's no question the guy has played excellent football in his career. It's not like he hasn't done it and you kind of have him in the position where this is important to him now. So you have a hungry guy.

"I think if he can stay healthy, he's going to be good."