Ricky Williams to Retire

ESPN – Report: Ricky Williams to retire after 5 seasons

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has told the team he plans to retire after just five NFL seasons, The Miami Herald reported on its Web site early Sunday morning. “He wants to get on with his life, wants to move on to bigger and better things,” Herald reporter and ESPN commentator Dan Le Batard told SportsCenter.
According to the Herald’s report, Williams wants to travel the world and is tired of the demands and restraints of a professional football career. “I just don’t want to be in this business anymore,” Williams told the paper. “I was never strong enough to not play football, but I’m strong enough now. I’ve considered everything about this. Everyone has thrown every possible scenario at me about why I shouldn’t do this, but they’re in denial. I’m happy with my decision. I’m finally free. I can’t remember ever being this happy.” He said he has already told his mother, Sandy; his agent, Leigh Steinberg; backup running back Travis Minor; and friends and family of his decision.

According to Le Batard, the Dolphins are stunned by the news and members of the organization are still trying to talk Williams out of his decision, one the Herald says should be finalized this week when Williams faxes his retirement papers to the league. “I have no comment,” Miami coach Dave Wannstedt told the Herald when asked about Williams’ retiring. “Players report Friday. Right now, it’s a 10-day dead period. We’ll get everybody started on Friday.” Wannstedt acknowledged talking with Williams but declined to give details of their conversation.

Listening to Williams, who plans to travel to Asia without a return ticket, the prospect of his returning to the team appears unlikely. “I have no idea what I’m going to do,” he told the Herald. “Who knows? I just know it is going to be fun. Going to school again. Going to travel for the next six months. I’m halfway intelligent. I’ll figure something out. I don’t feel like I have to explain myself to anyone. All I end up doing anyway is giving rebuttals, and it is boring. I don’t want to do it anymore. That’s it. I don’t want to do this anymore. If people really care about me, that would be enough for them.”

His stunning retirement ends one of the most unusual NFL careers in recent history. The Saints traded away almost an entire draft to make him their first-round choice in 1999, the fifth pick overall. To spice up his arrival, the Heisman winner out of the University of Texas wore a wedding dress for photo ops with the coach who engineered the trade — former Saints coach Mike Ditka. Unfortunately for Williams, New Orleans became a personal hell. He developed a personality disorder that required medication and often wore his helmet during interviews. He rushed for only 884 and 1,000 yards during the first two seasons with the Saints. After Williams’ 1,245-yard season in 2001, former Saints general manager Randy Mueller traded him to the Dolphins for two first-round picks and a swap of fourths in 2002. In Miami, his career flourished. He trained harder, cutting his weight from 250 pounds to 228. In 2002, Williams led the NFL with 1,853 yards and was named to his first (and only) Pro Bowl. Last season, Williams rushed for 1,372 yards on 392 attempts, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Over Williams’ two years in Miami, Wannstedt made him the focal point of his offense, rushing him 775 times — the most carries in the NFL. For his career, Williams rushed for 1,000 or more yards in four of his five NFL seasons, totaling 6,354 yards on 1,589 carries and 41 touchdowns. Williams also had 1,806 receiving yards on 229 catches.

Williams was scheduled to make $3.735 million in a contract set to expire in 2006. But it’s not the first time he has walked away from a fortune. With the Saints, he signed an unusual contract that paid him more than $10 million in signing bonus in 1999, but he was willing to accept minimum salaries for the remainder of the deal, hoping to make up the difference in incentives. Financially, the deal was a disaster. The Saints challenged him to be the most productive back in NFL history to make those incentives. To hit the big dollars, Williams would have had to gain more than 6,400 yards in his first four seasons. Despite his productivity, Williams fell short of those numbers in five seasons. This is also not the first time Williams skipped off to a foreign country on short notice. During one offseason in Miami, Williams went on a European vacation without informing Saints management. They were left scrambling to try to find him.

Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 while at Texas and was considered one of the greatest college backs in history. Williams seemed to enjoy the college game more than that of the NFL.

The Dolphins might have been tipped off that this might be an unusual season for Williams when management learned through a newspaper story that Williams had failed a drug test and was being docked four games’ pay this season. In May, three South Florida newspapers reported that Williams tested positive for marijuana and faced a fine of at least $650,000 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy for a second time since joining the Dolphins. But his attorney, Gary Ostrow, told The Associated Press: “As far as I’m concerned, there is no violation.” Williams told the Herald that his failed marijuana tests had a minor influence on his decision to retire but that that issue was only one of many factors. It didn’t cause him to retire, he said, as much as reinforce his reasons for wanting to do so.

Williams is one of the best running backs I’ve seen but also one of the weirdest. He’s set for life financially and, if retiring is what he wants, he has every right to do it. The decent thing to do would have been to have made the announcement before the draft, so the Dolphins could find a replacement for him, but Williams isn’t exactly known for thinking about anyone other than himself.

For more coverage, see:

Miami Herald“I’m finally free.” (Dan Le Batard)

Miami Heraldcp****@cp****.com&KRD_RM=2lkonnmqqonniiiiiiiiiirqpl|Johnny|Y">Stunning, unfathomable . . . are you KIDDING??? (Greg Cote)

Are you !@#$ing SERIOUS?

You know how the Heat suddenly acquiring Shaquille O’Neal produced a civic love-in and made confetti fly? Sort of like when the Marlins silenced Yankee Stadium to win the World Series last fall? This is the stone-cold opposite. This is news so stunning as to be nearly unfathomable. This is news that sends an earthquake across the NFL, changing Vegas odds, reshaping perceptions and raising champagne toasts across the AFC East and among every upcoming opponent.

Sports IllustratedRicky runs away: Williams tells Dolphins he will retire

Blogospheric reaction:

  • Paul at Wizbang, who covered Williams in New Orleans: “At the time I remember thinking he reminded me of Michael Jackson in many ways. Ten years from now, all Ricky’s money will probably be gone and the cocaine will have won. “
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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Liz huls says:

    To me i think that football should be more important than pot. I’m one of your bigest fans and i was shocked when i herd that you were retiring. God i cant belive it. are you for god d@?n real. Please go to theripy.
    Love one ove you biggest fans,

  2. Aaron says:

    Man Ricky was my idle but now he make me wonder if football is it Ricky got dreds i got dreds ricky loss weight i loss weight ricky had a visor I has a visor and so on and so on he make me think do i want to play football and get hit around all my life but i wont stop playing because you know why im his replacement

  3. Jay says:

    I believe very strongly that a person should do whatever it takes to attain personal satisfaction and happiness. I respect Mr. Williams’ decision and I admire him for having the courage to walk away from the game of football. I do not believe for one second that his latest failed drug test was a factor or that he chose to retire rather than play 4 games for free. Mr. Williams clearly wanted the opportunity to live life outside of the NFL. I respect that.


    Go Pats!

    BTW, Ricky, if you happen to read this could you please send some of that kind bud to the Jets? They look decent this year, and we can’t have that.