Monday, July 26, 2004

Selfish Ricky shows breakaway speed. by Dave George

Into next week, I plan to post various articles detailing the saga of Ricky Williams' retirement from the NFL. Since only a few people frequent my blog, I am going to play loose with copyright. Ideally, it is best to post only 10 %, or 4 paragraphs from published work.

Everybody's saying all the right things today at Miami Dolphins camp, still holding out hope that Ricky Williams may yet get back in touch with his masculine side and return to training camp as if this whole bizarre "retirement" announcement never happened.

My immediate reaction, or at least what I'm saying now in the wake of a hearty defibrillator jolt or two, is good riddance.

The Dolphins missed the playoffs in both of the seasons Williams was here and, by gum, they can do it again without him. If that sounds too flippant for so devastating a development in franchise history,  consider this:

Ricky was so selfish about his decision, and so squeamish in its declaration, he didn't even stop by to tell Dave Wannstedt about it in person. He called the coach's cellphone Friday, one week before the opening of training camp, and may already have been out of town when the call was placed. How much more convenient it would have been, of course, if Wannstedt hadn't picked up, if Ricky could simply have left a message.

Bye, guys. Heart's just not in it anymore. Sure you'll understand. Oh, and tell all those season-ticket holders it's only a game. They'll still love me just for being me, right? Oops, the signal's starting to break up. Take it easy.

Easy. What a joke. The only easy way out for the Dolphins now would be if every other player in the NFL decided simultaneously to take a year off, travel the world, spend a little of that hard-earned money. Failing that, Miami must go to work in September with an offense built entirely around a ghost. Scary stuff, but right now I'm willing to bet that the reaction among most fans is fury, not fear.

Run, Ricky, run, halfway around the world, where people care as little about the Dolphins as you do. Freedom, in this case, is just another word for getting lost. Somewhere way out there, around the bend.

"Everybody has got to make up their own mind," Wannstedt said Sunday, "what they believe, what's in their heart."

A benign and politically correct response, that one is, from a coach who's still praying for a miraculous restoration of his roster. Wayne Huizenga's first flash might have been slightly different, considering his signature is the one on Williams' $3.5 million contract for the 2004 season. The Dolphins get that money back, but there is no comparable talent in which to invest it.

The timing of Ricky's revelation is too late to put Miami in the running for big backs like Eddie George and Antowain Smith, both of whom recently signed with other teams.
The timing, for that matter, was so self-indulgent and childish that it brings to mind a little boy sneaking away from the bus stop to play hooky on the first day of school because he just hasn't had enough of summer.

Jim Brown, the Cleveland Browns Hall of Famer who walked away from the NFL in his prime to pursue an acting career, probably wouldn't see it that way. A South Beach resident, he has in the past year become one of Ricky's few close friends, and quite possibly an adviser, too.

There are many others who will applaud Ricky's bold move, quitting football at 27, taking the great wealth he has earned in a brutal sport and doing what he pleases with it. His social anxiety disorder can't have made the superstar life comfortable at all times. Shaving those beloved dreadlocks a few months back was a blatant move toward gaining more anonymity in public places. What a puzzle we have here, a poet in a piledriver's body, a painfully shy man who nonetheless agreed to appear in a white wedding dress five years ago to sell a silly photo theme on the cover of a sports magazine.

Maybe something as simple as an adjustment in medication would solve this current mystery, but after this, what could the Dolphins ever confidently expect from Ricky again? One more positive test for marijuana use, for instance, and he's due for a four-game suspension under the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Believe it or not, the Dolphins were hit harder than this by a running back's surprise departure 30 years ago. Larry Csonka, Miami's Super Bowl MVP and the offensive star of a Dolphins team that won back-to-back NFL championships, shocked Don Shula by signing with the upstart World Football League. Zonk, also 27 at the time, improved his salary from $60,000 with the Dolphins to $1.4 million with the Memphis Southmen. Took Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick with him, too. Fans didn't like it, but they got it. Who wouldn't?

This wild Ricky ride is so much different. "Different," as a matter of fact, is the generous tag he's always worn, as a soft-spoken NCAA record-setter at the University of Texas, as Mike Ditka's one-man team in New Orleans and, most recently, as the loner around which the Miami locker room has been constructed.

Nothing to do now but start rebuilding with more familiar material. It will be a much tougher task and will take much longer, but that gaping hole Ricky has left must be packed with something stouter.

Foolish to wish for Williams' return. Unlike Ricky, the Dolphins can't afford to live in a fantasy world.


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May 28, 2010 at 10:03 PM  

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