Dolphins' Williams faced NFL penalty

Ricky Williams' NFL career has gone up in smoke.

Six days after telling Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt of his plans to retire, it was learned yesterday that Williams faced a four-game suspension this season after failing his third NFL-mandated drug test for marijuana.


His attorney, Gary Ostrow, said Williams told him yesterday of the positive result. Ostrow also said Williams recently lost his appeal of a second failed drug test from December and that his decision to quit stemmed largely from his desire for "freedom from the [NFL's drug-testing] program."

The Dolphins had held out hope that Williams would change his mind about playing in 2004. But that was largely because Williams failed to tell Wannstedt last Friday about his impending suspension. The NFL had yet to notify the Dolphins of Williams' ban because procedures involving the failed test were not finalized.


"This totally surprised me," said Wannstedt, whose team opens training camp tomorrow. "I had no knowledge about anything at the time."

Williams could not be reached for comment. He arrived back in South Florida yesterday after traveling to such locales as Hawaii, Tokyo and Boston within the past 10 days.

Williams was facing the loss of $880,000 in salary because of his third failed test. Williams, who was scheduled to earn $3.74 million this season, was facing a similar fine for his second failed test after losing his appeal.

NFL rules would have prohibited Williams from being involved in any team functions from the end of the preseason through the Dolphins' fourth regular-season game Oct. 3 against the New York Jets. Williams also would be subject to 10 random drug tests a month for at least three seasons and face a one-year suspension for another positive result. He was subject to the same number of monthly tests the past two years after his first positive result, which occurred shortly after he joined the Dolphins in March 2002.

A source close to Williams said he has expressed no intention of appealing his third failed test, which is further indication he will follow through on plans to retire at the age of 27.

The Miami Herald reported Williams failed his third test earlier this month after returning from a European vacation and tour with rock star Lenny Kravitz, who is a close friend. The star tailback told the Herald he smoked marijuana and used drug-masking agents to beat testing during his two seasons with the Dolphins.

Williams is quoted as saying he considers marijuana "just a plant" and that he doesn't believe in the government or NFL laws that ban it.

"I didn't quit football because I failed a drug test," Williams told the Herald. "I failed a drug test because I was ready to quit football."


Another source close to Williams said marijuana use was "one reason" for his decision to quit. But the source added, "I think he wanted to go back to school and travel and he doesn't want to get beat up any more."

Williams' 775 carries since joining the Dolphins are the most in a two-season span in NFL history. Williams never publicly complained about the number of carries he was receiving and said in early December that "at 26, the accumulation of hits doesn't affect me yet."

But Ostrow and agent Leigh Steinberg said Miami's heavy reliance on Williams contributed to his retirement decision.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.