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Friday, April 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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CFL team eyes Ricky Williams

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Ricky Williams has to sit out the 2006 NFL season for failing a fourth drug test, but a Canadian Football League franchise is making a pitch for the suspended tailback.

The Toronto Argonauts placed Williams on their 35-player negotiations list, which means they own exclusive CFL rights to contact him. Greg Mohns, the Argonauts' assistant general manager, spoke Thursday to Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to Ricky about it, but any consideration given to that opportunity would be done in consultation with the Dolphins because [coach] Nick Saban's perspective and their permission is imperative," Steinberg said.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello and Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene both said Williams is under contract with the Dolphins through 2008. Greene refused to "speculate about any hypothetical situations."

Every NFL players' contract contains an out in which a player could play for another team if he receives written consent from his club.

Uncertainty prevails in draft

NEW YORK — Two days before the NFL draft, even the players who will be picked at the top are tired of listening to the chatter and reading the gossip.

"There's so much uncertainty, I don't even pay attention to what they're saying anymore," USC quarterback Matt Leinart said during an NFL-sponsored news conference for six of the top prospective draftees. Those players have spent the past few days in New York at similar events leading up to Saturday's lottery at Radio City Music Hall.

"I don't want to watch television. I don't want to look at mock drafts. I just want it to happen," Leinart said.

Of all the top picks — and there's a consensus on the top 10 or 12, Leinart seems to be the one sliding in the final days, though no one is sure why. In fact, there are a few people who think he could end up going to Minnesota at No. 17, 16 spots below where he almost surely would have been selected if he had come out a year ago, and 10 spots or more below where he is likely to end up.

That is typical of this draft season, where everything is murky, in part because of an unusually long period between the end of the college season and the draft. That gives teams plenty of opportunity to overanalyze everyone, even Reggie Bush, Leinart's Trojans teammate and the player almost everyone has conceded Houston will take with the top pick.

Even that seems a bit up in the air. But just a bit.

The Texans announced Wednesday they are negotiating with both Bush and Mario Williams, the North Carolina State defensive end who has been described as a cross between Julius Peppers and Lawrence Taylor. Williams' stock has been soaring, and Houston owner Bob McNair insisted there is still discussion over the choice.

McNair also said the indecision is legitimate — it usually is a ruse — because the front office still hasn't decided which of the two can provide the most help to his team, 2-14 last season.

Notes

• Buffalo signed free-agent guard Tutan Reyes, a 16-game starter for Carolina last season.

• Restricted free-agent punter Dirk Johnson signed a one-year contract with Philadelphia.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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