Williams Shocks Dolphins by Retiring

From Hawaii, star running back Ricky Williams shared his stunning decision to retire with Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt. Their conversation lasted three or four telephone calls.

"I was having lunch with my wife -- that was a great lunch," Wannstedt said Sunday. "We kept getting cut off. He was using calling cards because he didn't have his cell phone, so it was difficult."

Yes, Williams could have handled his decision a bit more smoothly. Not only did it come from the middle of the Pacific, but it left the Dolphins with a huge void less than a week before training camp.

"I was definitely surprised," quarterback Jay Fiedler said, "especially with the timing."

Williams, who rushed for 3,225 yards in two seasons with the Dolphins, notified Wannstedt on Friday and planned to file retirement papers early this week with the NFL. Miami holds its first training camp workout Saturday.

Williams has always been a breakaway threat. But retirement at age 27 after five seasons in the NFL?

"I was surprised, as everybody in the organization is," Wannstedt said. "But it's a team game. Every great team meets challenges. Every great team has to overcome obstacles. And we have people at all positions that will do that."

Williams' decision was first reported Sunday by The Miami Herald.

"You can't understand how free I feel," he told the Herald in a phone interview from Hawaii before continuing his travels with a flight to Tokyo.

Long ambivalent about life in the spotlight, he said there's no chance he'll change his mind. But his agent, Leigh Steinberg, held out the possibility that the retirement could be temporary.

Williams might be back in South Florida by the end of the week, Steinberg said.

"Right now he seems at peace with his decision and intends to retire," Steinberg said. "Whether it ends up being short term or long term, we'll have to see."

Williams told the Herald marijuana tests he failed had a minor influence on his decision, but were only one of many factors. In May, The Palm Beach Post reported that Williams tested positive for marijuana and faced a fine of at least $650,000 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy for a second time since joining the Dolphins.

His attorney, Gary Ostrow, said there was no violation, and a ruling on Williams' appeal was pending. But Williams told the Herald he has gotten around drug tests in the past by taking a special liquid players all over the league consume to avoid detection.

"I don't know really what he was talking about," Wannstedt said.

Steinberg said money wasn't an issue in the retirement. Williams, who is single but has three young children, was to make at least $3.6 million this season, with incentives possibly pushing that as high as $6 million.

After winning the Heisman Trophy at Texas in 1998, Williams joined the New Orleans Saints when coach Mike Ditka used all of his draft picks to acquire the standout running back. Ditka said Sunday he hasn't spoken with Williams in about six months and was taken aback by the retirement news.

"I'd love to talk to him and try to talk him out of it," Ditka said from Chicago. "It seems kind of foolish to me, but I don't know what's on his mind. You're just destroying a great career. He's a talent. To let that all go to waste doesn't make a lot of sense."

Williams played three season for New Orleans but didn't blossom until he was dealt in 2002 for two first-round draft picks to Miami.

Now, due to the timing of Williams' retirement, the Dolphins head into training camp with few options for filling the vacancy at running back. Eddie George, who might have been a possibility, signed Friday with the Dallas Cowboys. For the moment the job belongs to three-year backup Travis Minor, who has yet to start an NFL game.

"I'm definitely excited about the opportunity," Minor said. "At the same time, I'm going to miss losing a teammate like Ricky, who has also been a friend."