Tracker Off Topic: Ricky’s back!

Every NFL fan has an opinion about Ricky Williams, including me.

Ricky Williams, the eccentric running back currently with the Miami Dolphins, was reinstated by the NFL after an 18-month absence due to a drug suspension.

The 0-9 Miami Dolphins need Ricky Williams. The NFL needs Ricky Williams.

We need Ricky Williams. Why? Because he shows us there is more than one way to live one’s life and that it’s OK to fail as long as you continue making the effort to overcome your shortcomings. Also, he challenges the idea that there should be a “forgiveness quota.”

I have a tendency to like athletes who are mavericks and nonconformists. Think Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Dennis Rodman. Ricky Williams falls in the same category. He marches to the beat of his own drum and often makes people uneasy with his behavior and his opinions. I don’t think drug use is cool, but I like Williams because he’s not afraid to be different.

Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all alike?

He’s well-read and well-traveled. He’s a soft-spoken thinker in an aggressive sport. He’s also a very good running back.

In 2004, Ricky was interviewed by 60 Minutes‘ Mike Wallace. As we saw during this year’s Vince Young interview, 60 Minutes tries very hard to make the majority of its guests look bad. VY probably assumed the best of 60 Minutes and spoke without guile (not necessarily a bad thing), but after CBS edited the piece, Vince looked like a selfish jerk, not like an assertive leader. However, Ricky, being the iconoclast he is, did a good job of not allowing himself to be portrayed as simply a self-centered pothead.

I love his response when asked about his sudden decision to leave the Miami Dolphins during the 2004 training camp.

“When would it have been OK for me to stop playing football?” Williams says. “When my knees went out? When my shoulders went out? When I had too many concussions? When is it OK? … I’m just curious. I’m just curious, because I don’t understand. When is it OK to not play football anymore?”

Due to his multiple drug suspensions, Ricky Williams has managed to extend his NFL career. He has only played six NFL seasons and seven professional seasons overall — he spent 2006 with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.

Williams has rushed for 7097 yards, almost four thousand yards less than Edgerrin James, the running back chosen one pick prior to him in the 1999 NFL Draft. Ricky has elite talent and very low mileage for a thirty-year old player. And he will continue to draw interest from NFL teams because he’s really big and really fast.

Does he deserve repeated chances to play football? He spent five and a half months in a Boston treatment center dealing with social anxiety disorder, and, presumably, his marijuana use. He has done what was asked of him by the NFL. And commissioner Roger Goodell, who is no pushover, gave Williams the OK.

Should the Miami Dolphins allow Williams to play for them? Why not? The Dolphins are winless. Some observers might say that accepting Williams is further evidence of the team’s dysfunction.

Dolphins management has been criticized for making questionable personnel decisions over recent years, none of which involve Ricky Williams. Adding Ricky to the roster would be a sign of sanity for a once proud franchise that has lost its way.

I hope, as a Ricky Williams fan, that he’s done sabotaging his NFL career so I can watch him do what he does best: run the football with a rare combination of exceptional speed and brute force.


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