Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Cliff Floyd feels Williams' pain

AMERICAN SPORTS As an injury-plagued professional athlete, the Mets' left fielder says he may know why the former Miami Dolphins running back decided to retire

AP , NY TIMES NEWS, MONTREALAND MIAMI, FLORIDA

Cliff Floyd, right, of the Mets, is congratulated by teammate Kazuo Matsui after hitting a two-run home run during a game against the Phillies, in Philadelphia on July 5. Floyd, battling a host of injuries, hopes to continue to play for at least two more seasons.

PHOTO: REUTERS

As a Miami Dolphins season-ticket holder, Cliff Floyd said he ached when he heard that Ricky Williams was retiring. But as an injury-plagued professional athlete who often wakes up feeling like an NFL running back on a Monday morning, he understood.

Floyd, the Mets' left fielder, has been pondering his future for most of this season, and after Williams announced his retirement from the NFL at age 27 on Sunday, Floyd asked himself once again how long he could keep playing baseball at the level he is used to.

Floyd returned to Montreal on Monday, the place where his career began, and said that he planned to retire in two years, after the 2006 season, when his four-year, US$26 million contract will expire. Floyd will be only 33, having played in fewer major league games than most of his peers, but he has already sustained enough injuries to last a career.

"My body is beat up," said Floyd, who has had operations on his left knee, his right wrist and his right foot, and has missed a month of this season with a strained quadriceps. "I want to go out there. I want to play because I really love the game. But I only know what I feel. At this point, two years can't come fast enough."

Floyd acknowledges that he might consider a part-time role near his home in Plantation, Fla., after the 2006 season -- "I guess I could be the designated hitter for Tampa Bay," he said -- but he does not anticipate being a starting outfielder anymore.

Although Floyd professes his loyalty to the Mets, and is hitting .277 with 13 home runs and 45 runs batted in, he says he fears that he will hurt the team if he is not at full strength in the field and on the bases.

When the Mets play day games after night games, Floyd debates asking to be left out of the lineup. He said he could even see himself approaching General Manager Jim Duquette in the next two years about being traded to an American League team.

He has become a vocal leader and a clubhouse spokesman, but many of his teammates do not realize how much pain he has to endure. There are mornings when his knee hurts so badly he can barely walk to the bathroom. There are afternoons when his Achilles' tendon is so sore that he cannot play with his daughter.

There are nights when he wonders if he will eventually have to walk with a cane.

"I have no idea what a NFL player feels like, but when I get up, I feel like I played more than a baseball game," Floyd said. "I won't sign another contract just for money. It's not always about money. I want to be able to take my kids to school."

Floyd will spend the off-season in Florida, watching the Miami Heat plus Shaquille O'Neal, and the Dolphins minus Williams.

payback

Ricky Williams could be forced to give back the Miami Dolphins more than US$8 million already paid to him because he retired before the expiration of his contract.

Because of penalty clauses included when Williams' contract was reworked two years ago, the team could try to recoup US$5.3 million in incentive money, said sources familiar with the terms who requested anonymity. The Dolphins also could seek US$3.3 million of the US$8.8 million signing bonus Williams received when he joined the New Orleans Saints in 1999, the sources said.

The Dolphins said they've made no decision about whether to pursue the matter. Williams' contract expired in 2006.

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