Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Williams shies away while George wants to play

AP , MIAMI, FLORIDAAND IRVING, TEXAS

Ricky Williams, right, of the Dolphins, stiff-arms Ray Mickens of the Jets in this Dec. 28, 2003 file photo in Miami, Florida. Williams shocked Miami by retiring on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

The first sign of a change in Ricky Williams came when he returned from vacation in Australia last winter with a shaved head, the distinctive dreadlocks gone.

Now he's gone, too. Williams has decided to retire at the peak of his career, stunning the Miami Dolphins and leaving an enormous void in their backfield less than a week before the start of training camp.

Williams, who rushed for 3,225 yards in two seasons with the Dolphins, phoned from Hawaii to inform coach Dave Wannstedt of his decision, then continued his travels by flying to Tokyo.

Williams has always been a breakaway threat. But retirement at age 27?

"I was completely surprised," Wannstedt said Sunday. "My main thought process was to try to get Ricky to come back here, sit down, talk about some things and see if we can get this thing back on track. He obviously chose to go another direction."

Williams, who notified Wannstedt on Friday, plans to file retirement papers Monday or Tuesday with the NFL. The Dolphins hold their first training camp workout Saturday.

His retirement after just five NFL seasons was first reported Sunday by The Miami Herald.

"You can't understand how free I feel," Williams told the Herald in a phone interview.

Long ambivalent about life in the spotlight, he said there's no chance he'll change his mind. But his agent, Leigh Steinberg, held out the possibility that the retirement could be temporary.

Williams might be back in South Florida by the end of the week, Steinberg said.

"Right now he seems at peace with his decision and intends to retire," Steinberg said. "Whether it ends up being short term or long term, we'll have to see."

Williams told the Herald marijuana tests he failed had a minor influence on his decision, but were only one of many factors. In May, three South Florida newspapers reported that Williams tested positive for marijuana and faced a fine of at least US$650,000 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy for a second time since joining the Dolphins. The Palm Beach Post first reported the story on its Web site.

His attorney, Gary Ostrow, said there was no violation, and a ruling on Williams' appeal was pending. But Williams told the Herald he has gotten around drug tests in the past by taking a special liquid players all over the league consume to avoid detection.

"I don't know really what he was talking about," Wannstedt said. He declined further comment on the subject.

Wannstedt said the retirement was a shock in part because Williams stayed in great shape during the offseason, participated in every practice and attended a team meeting as recently as June 22. Most teammates apparently had no clue about his retirement plan.

"This is certainly unexpected," defensive end Jason Taylor said.

Even Steinberg was stunned. The agent said Williams first told him he was seriously considering retirement Wednesday.

"What a mind boggle," Steinberg said. "He said he simply didn't feel the passion and motivation that is a prerequisite for playing his position."

Money wasn't an issue, Steinberg said. Williams, who is single but has three young children, was to make at least US$3.6 million this season, with incentives possibly pushing that as high as US$6 million.

After winning the Heisman Trophy at Texas in 1998, Williams joined the New Orleans Saints when coach Mike Ditka used all of his draft picks to acquire the standout running back.

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