Joined: Feb 2004
I Root For: FIU
Like Miami's off season hasn't been weird enough. This is a guy in his prime who had the capacity to be one of the greatest of all time. This is just really stupid!! Being a Dolphin fan has to be one of the most aggravating things in the world. They always have huge expectations and never perform up to their ability, now this. :bang: :bang: :mad: :mad: :bang: :bang: :mad:
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Quote:Ricky Williams: 'I'm retiring'
Fed up with football, Williams is retiring at 27
DAN LE BATARD
Ricky Williams is retiring.
The 27-year-old running back's seismic decision to leave football in his prime, a week before the start of Dolphins training camp, is perfectly in keeping with his personality. It is outsized, enigmatic, brave, unpredictable, complex, interesting, selfish and surprising enough to leave your mouth hanging open.
And, of course, different.
Above all, right to the very end of a football career that will be finished when he formally faxes his retirement papers to the NFL offices early this week, Williams always has been relentlessly different.
''I'm finally free,'' Williams said by cellphone from Hawaii. ``I can't remember ever being this happy.''
Why is he doing this?
Well, why not?
This is how Williams has always floated through life, going wherever the wind guided him, so he never really fit within the drill-sergeant rigidity of football with all its rules, regimen and stopwatches. He relished the playing part with a child's enthusiasm, but the business part was always much too adult for him. Williams has an artist's sensibilities and sensitivities, forever fascinated by things beyond that ball, and he is no longer interested in playing his life away.
He wants to study, learn, search, travel, question, write, meditate, read, wander, find himself, climb mountains, take pictures of waterfalls and be Dad without being interrupted by another 8 a.m. meeting to dissect film.
His heart isn't in it anymore, in other words. And, in both running style and lifestyle, his body will not go if his heart doesn't lead. Williams doesn't do indifference. He either plays passionately, as he did for two bruising seasons as a Dolphin, or not at all. So not-at-all is what it'll have to be, even as this Dolphin season appears to be wrecked before it gets started, because Williams figures he'll either get injured or hurt the team playing in a sport this savage without motivation.
He thought he might be able to make it through this one last season for his teammates, and only for them, but couldn't convince himself of it even after weeks of trying. He says he plans to call each of them individually in the coming weeks to apologize. He can't play for others. Williams has always been a locker-room loner, alone with his excellence, sitting apart from teammates even on the bench during games, and now he puts yet more distance between himself and those who play.
''I just don't want to be in this business anymore,'' said Williams, finished after just five NFL seasons. ``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.''
LONG TIME COMING
This is not some whim. Williams has been weighing this with friends for months and finally told an angry, crushed Dave Wannstedt on Friday night. Williams' decision was clinched while on tour recently in Europe with rocker friend Lenny Kravitz, who is so consumed with working and fame's responsibilities that he doesn't have much time for joy, or for himself. That's not what Williams wants to become of his own life. Williams says with conviction that no one will talk him into coming back, even though Wannstedt continues to try.
This isn't about any money dispute or leverage or the recent headlines involving his marijuana use. It's about outgrowing games. Williams' conviction has grown into clarity in recent weeks. He kept finding examples for why he should do this everywhere he looked -- backstage with Kravitz and Snoop Dogg, while befriending homeless people in Australia, on Jamaican beaches with Bob Marley's carefree kids.
''The people in Jamaica, living in these little tin shacks, they were the happiest people I've ever seen,'' Williams said. ``This is an opportunity to be a real role model. Everyone wants freedom. Human beings aren't supposed to be controlled and told what to do. They're supposed to be given direction and a path. Don't tell me what I can and can't do. Please.''
Society and the NFL say he can't smoke marijuana, for example, and that's one of the many rules of his confining workplace he will no longer abide. He says without apology he has gotten around NFL drug tests with a special liquid players all over the league consume by the gallon before tests to avoid detection. He says he simply didn't drink it before getting busted in 2002, and that he still hasn't heard on his appeal of a second failed test, but that the recent marijuana issues have nothing to do with his decision to retire beyond confirming how stifling celebrity can be and how ill-fitting the NFL is for him.
FAME AND MISFORTUNE
Williams has never been interested in money or fame, finding the former empty and the latter corrupt. He keeps thousands of dollars in hundreds in the unlocked glove compartment of an unlocked car and gives it away to strangers. He cut off his famous dreadlocks while on an Australian vacation (even though it cost him $750,000 from Gillette advertisers who wanted to capture the moment) because he craved the new anonymity baldness gave him.
He has formed a friendship with controversial Jim Brown, another running back who retired in his prime to pursue a movie career. And he was moved recently by a long conversation with former Minnesota running back Robert Smith, who also quit at his peak to pursue a medical career because he thought the beatings that running backs took were inhumane. But what Williams is doing is still unprecedented. No great back -- not Brown, not Barry Sanders, not Smith -- has ever retired this young and this healthy.
Williams is putting his cars and Miami homes up for sale. He already donated some of the money from them to a local school.
He says he'll probably spend the upcoming football season traveling abroad -- he hasn't gone to Dolphin workouts in weeks -- but doesn't have a concrete plan for his future.
''I have no idea what I'm going to do,'' he said. ``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 half-way 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.''
It isn't, of course. People care about the Dolphins a lot more than they care about him, so he'll become a traitor or worse in South Florida, just like that. That's another reason Williams disdains fame: Real love isn't this fickle. So he isn't terribly bothered that what was always a conditional, counterfeit sentiment (the volume of the cheering going up or down depending on his production) will now turn into a poison he won't even hear abroad. He says he plans to live in another country, and soon.
''The only people I'm accountable to are to my three children, and they love me anyway,'' Williams said. ``Whenever you are afraid to do something, you should do it. I've been afraid of this for too long. I'm not anymore.''
He was at the airport in Hawaii as he talked on his cell phone Saturday night, bound for a flight somewhere to Asia. The airline agent asked him for his return ticket to the United States. He said he did not have one.
Abandoning the team a week before camp? Traitor? Lunatic? Williams doesn't care what anyone thinks of him anymore. He is following a voice only he can hear. He is done doing what other people want, done answering to yelling coaches who care only about their own self-preservation, done being hit by 350-pounders, done waking up in pain, done being a piece of meat, done being confined, done being polluted by fame and fortune and football.
Perfectly Ricky, right up until the end.
He's done running for money.
Now he runs free.