06/02/2013 02:43 EDT | Updated 08/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Hamilton Tiger-Cats open training camp without receiver-returner Chris Williams

HAMILTON - The Hamilton Tiger-Cats opened training camp Sunday without Chris Williams.

The CFL's top special-teams player last season was absent when the Ticats took to the field at McMaster University for workouts.

As a result, the Ticats put Williams on the suspended list.

"He's got a valid contract and he should be here performing," Kent Austin, the Ticats head coach, GM and director of football operations, told reporters. "If he doesn't want to perform and be here, then he gets suspended without pay."

Williams scored a club-record 17 touchdowns last season — including a CFL-record six on returns — and was named the league's outstanding special-teams player.

Williams is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Ticats regarding the final year of his CFL contract and has gone to arbitration in order to be released from the deal so he could try out south of the border.

An arbitrator has yet to rule on the issue although there's talk Williams is unlikely to report to Hamilton even if he loses his case and could sit out the entire season and pursue NFL offers in 2014.

Austin said the Ticats have attempted to contact both Williams and his agent, Dan Vertlieb, but to no avail.

"I'm disappointed," Austin said. "I understand both sides to some degree but at the end of the day there has not been a ruling and I expect our players to honour their contract.

"In this particular case, that wasn't done."

Austin said should Williams wish to return to the Ticats, the door would remain open for that to happen. However, Austin would also want the chance to have an in-depth talk with the player.

"I'd have to see exactly where his head is at and where his heart is," Austin said.