Arbitrator rules Chris Williams' deal with Ticats is valid

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats say an independent arbitrator has ruled that receiver Chris Williams' deal with the CFL club is binding.

Still unclear if player will report or sit out season

Star returner-receiver Chris Williams was suspended Sunday by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for not reporting to training camp. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats say an independent arbitrator has ruled that speedy receiver Chris Williams' deal with the CFL club is binding.

Williams, the CFL's top special-teams player last season, had gone to arbitration asking to be released from the final year of his contract with the Ticats reportedly so he could pursue NFL offers.

"We are pleased that the independent arbitrator has reached this logical and obvious conclusion," Kent Austin, Hamilton's head coach and general manager, said in a statement. "As we have stated all along, and the arbitration result validated, Chris has a legal and binding contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"We're eager to put this matter behind us and continue our preparations for the 2013 season."

Austin is expected to discuss the Williams situation in more detail Wednesday.

It remains unclear whether Williams will report to Hamilton or sit out the season, then pursue an NFL deal in 2014.

Dan Vertlieb, Williams' agent, said in an email to The Canadian Press his client has received the arbitrator's decision.

"We are now in the process of discussing his options and deciding on the best course of action for Chris and his family," he said.

Williams is reportedly scheduled to earn a base salary of between $50,000 and $60,000 this season with Hamilton. The NFL's minimum stipend for 2013 is $405,000 US, with players on the practice squad making about $90,000 annually.

Williams had a club-record 17 TDs last season, including a CFL-record six on kick returns.

As a result of the arbitrator's ruling, the Ticats said they will not be subject to any penalties or fines.

Williams had refused to attend Hamilton's mini-camp earlier this off-season and was a no-show when the Ticats opened training camp Sunday, resulting in the club placing him on its suspended list.

Williams was reportedly contending he wasn't made fully aware of the conditions pertaining to his contract when he signed it prior to the 2011 season and that an unregistered agent negotiated the deal for him. Williams was also to have claimed Hamilton didn't offer him the one-year plus an option deal but rather just the two-year plus an option contract.

As a result, Williams sought to have the contract made invalid.

The five-foot-eight, 175-pound Williams signed with Hamilton in October 2010 and spent time on the practice roster before re-signing with the CFL club in May 2011. The 25-year-old native of Fort Worth, Tex., wasted little time making his mark in the league.

Williams was named the CFL's top rookie in 2011 after registering 70 receptions for 1,064 yards and six TDs. He also had 12 kickoff returns for 252 yards and a touchdown while returning 12 punts for 81 yards.

Williams was even better last season, with 83 catches for 1,298 yards and 11 TDs. He also led the CFL in punt returns with 78 for 1,117 yards and five touchdowns while adding five missed field goal returns for 256 yards and a TD.

Williams played his college football at New Mexico State and joined the NFL's Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2009 but was released with an injury settlement prior to the start of the season. He signed with the Cleveland Browns later in the year and spent time on the practice roster before being let go.