We’ve been here before.
We’ve seen how the Dolphins
come to depend on Ricky Williams, only to have things end in a bad way.
Could it happen again?
Yes, it could.
So why will this time be
In a way, this is old news.
Bill Parcells believes in Ricky, enough to have given him a two year contract
extension. Jeff Ireland concedes that they kept Ricky around knowing full well
all the details of his past, but still confident based on his work habits,
talent, and other considerations.
And Tony Sparano likes him as
a football player as much as Cam Cameron, Nick Saban, and Dave Wannstedt did
This should be enough for us,
In all fairness, Williams has
worked hard to change since those seasons of drug suspensions and irresponsible
behaviors broke hearts and coaches alike. He has worked hard to re-build his
life and his career. He wants to be regarded in a positive light when he hangs
up his cleats for good. He has plans to be a doctor. His personal life is reportedly
in much better order now than ever before.
In short, Ricky has tried
very hard to rebuild his credibility. And it would be unfair not to give him
credit for his efforts.
Yet some things haven't
Ricky still struggles with
the public, especially the media. As Ronnie Brown's back-up, he didn't have to
talk all that much; this suited him. But now, back in his former high profile role
as the offense's most talented player, he will get more attention again.
Ricky hates the spotlight; always
has and always will. His social
anxiety disorder isn’t gone; he just deals with it in a different way.
With the added attention,
will he be tempted to turn to marijuana again? Or, will his practice of
alternative medicines and life philosophies help him to continue to find a
better way to cope? Remember, Williams was smoking pot just three years ago and
has fallen off the wagon numerous times.
There's also the matter of his
health. Can a 32 year old RB handle a full load, even a guy who takes care of
his body as well as Williams does?
No matter how much we pull
for the guy to be successful, these are all fair questions to ask, especially
in a situation where the Dolphins have little choice but to once again trust Williams
with more than they had planned.
The good news here is that
the current regime has gone into this thing with their eyes wide open. They
know his failings as well as he does. The difference this time is better
self-awareness by all parties. And the results thus far have been truly positive
for everyone concerned.
Objectively, I must say that Ricky
Williams is one of the best football players I have ever seen, a guy with Hall
of Fame talent that still makes him one of the top runners in the NFL. Case in
point: he is currently ranked 12th in rushing, and he hasn’t even been
This is not your
run-of-the-mill stuff. Yet it seems clear that the missed seasons of work have extended
his career. It's like its 2002 again and Ricky is back to being the same guy
who could dominate a game, just as he did against Carolina last week. And we all know the more
Ricky runs, the less opponents want to tackle him. That 46 yarder he popped
against the Panthers late in the 4th quarter was a classic example of how he
gets stronger as the game goes on.
When Williams is like that,
he is very tough to stop, which is why it will be fascinating to see how the
offense changes with Ricky back to doing his thing as the starter. After all,
no one appreciates Ricky’s talents more than rushing aficionado Dan Henning.
If Ricky stays healthy and on
the straight and narrow, he will have a shot at breaking the team’s rushing
record (Larry Csonka, 6,737) before the end of his current contract. He is
currently 1,418 yards behind Zonk and will be gaining at a more rapid pace now
that he will be getting most of the carries.
If Ricky breaks Zonk’s record,
one of the most sacred marks in team history, even his most ardent detractors (me
included) would have to concede that he not only deserves recognition as one of
the greatest Dolphins of all time, but also election to the Pro Football Hall
Such thoughts were ludicrous
just three seasons ago. Remember that season, when we were praising Ricky for
his model citizenry? That was right before he ended up on Saban’s porch, eating
pizza, and admitting to yet another violation of the league’s drug policy, a
fourth strike and a one year ban from the NFL.
This is why we must ask if
history is set to repeat itself, or if Ricky has truly left his controversial
past behind him as he has so many potential tacklers.
We want to believe in Ricky. He
is not a bad person, just an eccentric one, someone with interesting
philosophic views on life. On talent alone, he stands second only to Dan Marino
as the greatest offensive player in team history. But potential must be
fulfilled if the recognition is to be deserved.
Said Marino during his Monday
morning show on 560 WQAM, “It seems like his body, physically, is on a
25-year-old level right now. Maybe it's because he's missed a couple years and
didn't take that beating for awhile. But, wow, boy is he running hard. He's
always run that way. Maybe he's just in a place right now where he's enjoying
the game. Maybe he didn't enjoy it for awhile with all the troubles and
problems he had. But you could see it in his play -- it's really pretty
Marino is right. It is
amazing. But as Sparano would say, the time has come for Ricky to finish. For
his sake, and the Dolphins’, let’s hope that this time he runs to the finish