There will not be a sidebar to the announcement from Ricky Williams that he will retire. No failed drug test, no Australian Outback excursion, just a simple man walking away from a game that provided him the financial means to find himself. Today, the venerable Williams informed the Baltimore Ravens that he is done.
Williams, for the first time in his NFL career came within one game of his first Super Bowl and walks away from the game with over 10,000 yards rushing. Likely not enough however to put in the company of NFL Hall of Famers. Something that Williams would likely shy away from anyways.
In 1998 Williams won the Heisman trophy for his season at Texas and the following April, Mike Ditka made him his first round pick, 5th overall for the New Orleans Saints. The Saints traded all of their picks in that 1999 draft as well as a first and third the following year. The Saints would soon recoup some of those lost picks.
In 2002, the Dave Wannstedt led Miami Dolphins traded two first round picks for the running back. In 2003, Williams made the Pro-Bowl and was awarded the MVP award of the game. While it appeared that Ricky Williams was becoming the stud RB that the Dolphins thought they were getting, his personality disorder was taking control of his life.
One week prior to the start of the 2004 NFL training camp season, Ricky Williams informed Wannstedt that he was quitting football. He packed his bags and headed to the Australian Outback for a soul searching retreat. A week later it was reported that Williams had failed his third drug test and would be suspended for four gaames. Dave Wannstedt would resign three quarters the way through the season.
In 2005, Nick Saban convinced Williams to return to the Dolphins, he paid back a portion of his signing bonus and served his four game suspension for the previous positive tests. Williams’ year with the Dolphins would end yet again with a fourth substance abuse suspension that came with a year suspension. Williams would play for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. He would make it a partial season after breaking his arm. Williams would return to the Miami Dolphins in 2007 after applying for reinstatement despite a report that a fifth drug test had been failed.
Following Ricky Williams stint in the CFL, the CFL Commissioner instituted a new league rule that no player suspended by the NFL could join a team in the CFL. I was referred to in circles as the “Ricky Williams Rule”.
Williams was placed on IR after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in a game against the Steelers. He would miss the remainder of the season. In 2008, Bill Parcells entered the picture and Williams was re-signed to an extension. In 2009, Williams would eclipse the 1,000 yard mark and in 2010, he would finish his career in Miami.
Williams spent last season with the Baltimore Ravens. Through the ups and downs of Williams’ career many fans never lost faith in the runner while others felt he should have been dumped after his fourth failed test and year long suspension. Even others felt he should never have come back at all after he quit. For Dolphins fans, Ricky Williams was one of the most debated topics in team history.
Williams left Miami last season in much the same way he had in previous exits from the franchise. With a degree of controversy. Williams blasted the Miami coaches and front office before retracting his comments and stating that he was indeed open to returning. At the start of the 2011 season, Williams left Miami along with fellow teammate Ronnie Brown.
For this author, the retirement of Williams is long overdue. I have long ago put away my disdain for the man and simply realize that he is his own person for better or worse. Historically, he will be viewed as one of the best Miami Dolphins runners in history and over the next few years it’s likely that his name will be mentioned on a forum somewhere regarding his acceptance on to the Dolphins Ring Of Honor.
For now and until that time, good luck Ricky Williams…it was, well, interesting.