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Not Looking Out for No. 1
Rick Reilly
August 09, 1999
Ricky Williams, you got taken, but good.
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August 09, 1999

Not Looking Out For No. 1

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Ricky Williams, you got taken, but good.

You got ripped off like an Amish tourist in the French Quarter. You got a great deal on Elvis's wristwatch and an Okefenokee time-share. Considering what the New Orleans Saints' front office and Iron Mike Ditka and your diamond-dripping agents have done to you, you'll soon be so tapped out you'll be schlepping your Heisman to Pizza Huts at $50 a birthday party.

You signed the single worst contract since the Maria Maples prenup. You hooked up with a nut bag for a coach and the Washington Generals for a team. What makes it worse is that you seem to be about the straight-up most decent young guy in sports. Soft-spoken. Diligent. One of the rare guys who gives something back. Now here we are, getting ready to kick off your NFL career, and it's already fourth-and-12.

After what they did to you, Ricky, they should roll over and have a cigarette. You'll get pretty much the NFL minimum (right now that's $175,000) over the next seven years unless you start making like Jim Brown, Jesse Owens and Secretariat rolled into one. The only way you get all $57.3 million in bonuses is if your first four years are as good as Terrell Davis's first four were with the Denver Broncos. All he did was average 1,600 yards a season. O.J. Simpson? Walter Payton? Barry Sanders? None of them did that. Bottom line: You could put up the second-best numbers in the history of the league and get rabbit pellets. Oh, you're also locked in for seven years with no way out. Any holdouts, they take back all or part of your $8.84 million signing bonus. Nice work.

You ask Davis about this contract and watch his eyebrows go up about three inches. "I guess it's doable," he says, "but you have to stay healthy, play for a team that not only has the ball a lot but doesn't play from behind a lot."

Stay healthy? You'll play on painted green cement in most games. Ask Earl Campbell what a delight that is.

Keep the ball? The Faints had the worst rushing game in the NFL last year and will start a cadaver at quarterback—Billy Joe Interception—which means linebackers will be waiting on you like dieting Dobermans.

Play from behind? Under Iron Brain Ditka, the Faints have trailed at halftime or through the third quarter in 23 of their 32 games. Hey, Ricky, got any incentives for making particularly nice pass blocks?

"I wanted to be fair," you say earnestly. "I wanted to earn my money."

Wonderful, Ricky, but do you know how many Faints backs have ever run for 1,600 yards in a season? One, George Rogers, and he did it 18 years ago. Any idea how many backs in the history of the NFL have averaged 1,600 yards over their first four seasons? Two—Davis and Eric Dickerson. And, pal, they didn't play for the Faints. Put it this way: If you ever receive a drachma of that Terrell Davis money, I'll personally come and tongue bathe the Superdome.

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