Saints Getting Ready Fort Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins' ground game has been so feeble for so long that even a 4-yard run by Ricky Williams excites coach Dave Wannstedt. Williams didn't do much in his first exhibition game for Miami _ 9 yards in five carries, including the modest gain that won jocular raves from the coach. Miami's new franchise running back will likely get a few more carries Thursday night. And the opposition knows just what to expect, because Williams will be going against his former team, the New Orleans Saints. ``I'm not going to play very much, but it will be fun to see a lot of the guys that I haven't had a chance to say goodbye to,'' Williams said. ``That's going to be what's exciting for me about playing New Orleans.'' Both teams are looking for their first win. New Orleans lost its exhibition opener 13-10 Saturday to the expansion Houston Texans. Miami's first unit looked sloppy in a 14-10 Monday loss at Tampa Bay. Williams, acquired in March to upgrade Miami's perennially woeful running attack, played only two series against the Buccaneers but still managed to impress Wannstedt. ``He had a heck of a 4-yard run,'' Wannstedt said with a grin. ``It was a draw, and there were three defenders free. He made one guy miss in the hole and bounced it to the outside. John Lynch came up to make the tackle, and he made Lynch miss. Then the other free guy hit him, and he made 4 yards. It should have been a 1-yard gain, and he made 4.'' That was Williams' best effort against a Bucs defense geared to stop the run. The Saints will likely take the same approach against their former teammate. ``It's definitely going to be fun,'' Saints defensive tackle Norman Hand said. ``I couldn't hit him in practice, so now I can hit him in a real game.'' Once Williams and the Saints are done trading licks, Miami running back Robert Edwards will enter his first game since a devastating knee injury following his rookie season in 1998. Edwards rushed for 1,115 yards with New England as a rookie but suffered nerve, ligament and artery damage in his left knee the following February in a beach football game. He has looked impressive in training camp but is prone to groin and hamstring injuries and sat out Miami's first preseason game. ``I do expect to be a little nervous,'' Edwards said. ``I'm just trying to survive every play.''

The game is also meaningful in a different way for Williams, whose three seasons with the Saints are remembered more for his odd behavior than for what he did on the field. Coach Mike Ditka traded his entire draft to take the Heisman Trophy winner with the No. 5 pick in 1999. But the shy Williams shrank in the glare of the spotlight and says he failed to hit it off with Ditka's successor, Jim Haslett. Diagnosed last year with social anxiety disorder, Williams began receiving treatment and says he's never been happier than with the Dolphins. He says he bears no grudge toward the Saints, but the matchup still gives some sizzle to a game that doesn't count. ``He'll be fired up to play against them,'' Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler said. ``They'll be juiced up to play against him.'' That includes Williams' replacement in New Orleans, Deuce McAllister, looking to improve on his showing in the preseason opener. Against Houston, McAllister carried eight times for 21 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown. The Saints will start a disgruntled quarterback, Aaron Brooks, who complained again this week about management's stance in negotiations on his new contract. His current deal is for the fourth-year minimum of $450,000 this season. The dispute is part of a shaky start to the preseason for the Saints, but Williams said they can win under Haslett. ``When a new coach comes in, he has to replace his players with the guys he wants and the kind of system he wants,'' Williams said. ``I'm sure in a couple of years Jim Haslett will have the system he wants, and then it will be all right.'' Williams resisted any temptation to take shots at his former team. He'll save them for Thursday's game.