MIAMI — MIAMI - The Miami Dolphins' series of offseason headaches turned into a crisis this weekend when star running back Ricky Williams told coach Dave Wannstedt he is retiring - a week before training camp.
Despite attempts by friends and colleagues to talk him out of quitting, Williams said yesterday he was overjoyed by his decision, one that has been months in the making.
"You can't understand how free I feel," Williams said before boarding a plane in Hawaii and heading to Asia to begin several months of travel. Williams, 27, has played five years in the NFL, including the first three with New Orleans. He said he plans to file his retirement papers with the NFL tomorrow or Tuesday.
Williams, who was scheduled to earn approximately $3.5 million this season, told Wannstedt of his decision Friday and said Wannstedt tried a variety of ways to persuade him to reconsider. Wannstedt, who approved the 2002 trade with New Orleans to acquire Williams for two first-round picks, went so far as to say if Williams were his son, he would tell him to play.
Williams retorted that Wannstedt would want his son to do whatever made him happy. Williams said he was "hurt" by their conversation.
"I have no comment," Wannstedt said when asked about Williams' retiring. "Players report Friday."
Whan asked about the conversation he had Friday with Williams, Wannstedt responded, "We've had a conversation, but again, I have no comment."
Asked if there was any chance he could change his mind, Williams said, "No, none."
Williams said his failed marijuana tests had a minor influence on his decision to retire, but only one of many factors. It didn't cause him to retire, he said, as much as reinforce his reasons for wanting to do so.
Williams said he talked to Wannstedt twice Friday. The coach urged Williams to sleep on his decision.
"He's just hoping I change my mind. But I have considered everything about this," Williams said. "I always try to do the right thing, always. My heart tells me, 'Don't be controlled.'"
Asked what he planned to do after his travels, Williams said he has no plans. "I just know it's going to be fun," he said.
Travis Minor becomes the obvious candidate to succeed Williams in the short term, but Minor has never handled the type of workload Williams has received the past two years.
Williams' timing couldn't have been worse for the Dolphins. Earlier this week, free-agent running backs Antowain Smith and Eddie George signed with Tennessee and Dallas.
Williams' stunning decision comes after he produced the top two rushing seasons in team history and in his career the past two years. He set a team record with an NFL-leading 1,853 yards rushing in 2002. He followed that with 1,372 yards last season.
The decision also follows a series of embarrassing events for the team. In January, there was the aborted hiring of former quarterback Dan Marino as vice president of football operations.
Then came the promotion of Joel Collier to offensive coordinator. Collier resigned May 10 because of exhaustion.
In May, Williams was fined four weeks' pay because of a second positive drug test late last season. Three Dolphins players were arrested this offseason.