Williams says he'd 'love' to return in 2005 with the Raiders
Posted: Wednesday August 4, 2004 4:46PM; Updated: Wednesday August 4, 2004 5:22PM
Ricky Williams is a native of San Diego and says he is very comfortable in California.
Ricky Williams was in Oakland last weekend, visiting his twin sister, Cassie, and enjoying the first week of the rest of his life. He had a wonderful time, and experienced absolutely zero regrets that he wasn't at the Miami Dolphins' training camp. Now here's the interesting part: Williams likes Oakland so much, he expressed the desire to play there in 2005. According to the 27-year-old halfback, who officially filed retirement papers with the NFL earlier this week, playing for the Raiders is "the only way I would" consider a comeback."It would be great," he said. "I'd love it."
In an interview conducted via America Online's instant-messenger service, Williams said he likes the idea of wearing the silver-and-black uniform as soon as next summer. He cited the team's offensive line and the presence of coach Norv Turner, his offensive coordinator the previous two seasons in Miami, as elements that make the Raiders attractive. Turner, after all, called the plays when Williams had his monster season in 2002, leading the NFL with 1,853 rushing yards.
Williams, a native of San Diego, also gave another reason for wanting to play in Oakland: "I love Cali." Only in the Golden State, Williams believes, can his unconventional sensibilities be accepted, and nowhere more than in the Raider Nation, a land inhabited by "crazy fans who would expect a weirdo."
Such a move would not be entirely up to Williams, of course. His NFL rights belong to the Dolphins, for whom Williams is under contract for another two seasons. Miami traded a pair of first-round draft picks to acquire Williams from the New Orleans Saints following the 2001 season and undoubtedly would be interested in recouping at least part of that initial investment.
Would the Raiders be interested? League tampering rules prevent Oakland officials from discussing such a scenario, but a look at the Raiders' roster suggests they could use a premier back. With Charlie Garner having left for Tampa Bay, the team lists 32-year-old Tyrone Wheatley, who gained 678 rushing yards in 2003, atop its depth chart. Second-year back Justin Fargas and veteran offseason pickups Troy Hambrick and Amos Zereoue are also competing for jobs and playing time. Turner, like owner Al Davis, has long been a proponent of a power running attack, and Williams obviously fits that mold.
Further complicating the situation is the possible suspension Williams faces for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Williams reportedly would have had to pay a $650,000 fine this season for having twice tested positive for marijuana; last week he told TheMiami Herald that he had been notified of a third positive test, which would cost him a four-game suspension. He declined to comment further.
It's also unclear whether Williams would want more money should he return to the league. According to an NFL source who is friendly with Williams, the halfback, who was due to make $3.5 million in 2004, sought an upgraded deal from Miami after last season but balked at what he deemed to have been an underwhelming offer.
For now, Williams is intent upon enjoying his time away from football. He was in Huntington Beach, Calif., earlier this week and planned to fly to Asia for an extended vacation. He was also contemplating visiting Athens for the Olympics. Asked to sum up his current state of mind, Williams replied, "Every man thinks his burden is the heaviest, but he who feels it knows it. Burden equals truth."
Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael Silver sounds off weekly on SI.com.