Canton, Ohio — Whether he is in for two plays or two quarters, Ricky Williams will draw the most attention in tonight's Hall of Fame game.
Forget the returns to the NFL of Dolphins coach Nick Saban and Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner. Or the holdouts of both teams' top draft picks, running backs Ronnie Brown of Miami and Cedric Benson of Chicago.
For now, ignore all the questions about both clubs' suspect offenses. The spotlight for this one is on Williams.
"I really don't have an expectation," Williams said. "I found that expectations really get in the way. I don't make that choice. I don't decide how many carries I will have, therefore it's pointless for me to have expectations about it."
But there will be expectations from elsewhere. Actually, from nearly everywhere.
When one of the NFL's premier players retires just before training camp, as Williams did last year at age 27, and his former team falls apart, his comeback draws headlines. Particularly with the enigmatic Williams, who must serve a four-game suspension at the outset of the regular season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
Williams, who claimed throughout his layoff that he had no interest in suiting up again, now says he has a mission to achieve through football.
"I realize that one thing that I've had to work on to grow as a person is the only reason why someone is gifted, which is to give back," he said. "My teacher is from Vietnam, and she doesn't understand why ... don't (people) go out and play football instead of just sitting on the couch drinking beer. I'd rather have people be inspired by what we do. When we work through this heat and fight through this adversity, I wish they can be more inspired by what we do."
The Dolphins could be inspired both by seeing their greatest player, Dan Marino, being saluted as the latest Hall of Fame inductee (along with Steve Young, Fritz Pollard and Benny Friedman), and by trying to prove something from the outset to Saban. Miami has dozens of questions to answer in Saban's first season as an NFL head man - he was a defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick in Cleveland before heading to Michigan State and then LSU.