Wannstedt 'shocked again' at news

Updated: July 30, 2004, 1:11 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MIAMI -- If Ricky Williams has a change of heart and rejoins the Miami Dolphins this year, he won't return until he serves a four-game NFL suspension after having failed a drug test for a third time.

On Thursday, Williams told Dan Le Batard, a reporter for the Miami Herald and for ESPN The Magazine, that he learned of his failed drug test and subsequent suspension just days before making his decision to retire.

The star running back said the developments played a part in his sudden retirement, but that it wasn't the only issue involved in his decision. Williams insisted there were "a hundred reasons" for leaving the NFL.

"I didn't quit football because I failed a drug test," he said. "I failed a drug test because I was ready to quit football."

Williams said he's not addicted to marijuana.

Coach Dave Wannstedt said the Dolphins have received no notification from the NFL regarding a third failed drug test, and Williams' latest revelation caught them by surprise.

"We knew nothing about it," Wannstedt said. "I'm totally surprised and shocked again."

Wannstedt said he's eager to move beyond the Williams situation and open training camp Saturday.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment Thursday when reached by The Associated Press.

Williams also told Le Batard that he had wanted to quit playing football even before testing positive a second time for marijuana use in May and getting fined $650,000.

In May, three South Florida newspapers quoted unidentified sources saying Williams tested positive for marijuana and faced a fine of at least $650,000 for violating the substance-abuse policy for the second time since joining the Dolphins in 2002.

Though Williams appealed the fine, he learned last week the appeal had been denied. In the interim, Williams told the paper he'd been smoking marijuana while traveling with Lenny Kravitz, who was on tour in Europe at the time. Once Williams returned, he was tested again -- and again failed. Williams said he'd stopped taking a masking agent, called "Extra Clean," that he has said he'd used to avoid testing positive during his two seasons in Miami.

After failing his first drug test in 2002, not long after his trade to Miami, Williams was enrolled in the league's substance abuse program. He had weekly appointments with a therapist, he said, and faced eight-to-ten random urine tests every month -- tests he'd beaten by downing 32 ounces of "Extra Clean" followed by the same amount of water.

In emphasizing that his lifestyle choices, rather than the failed tests, had driven his decision to retire from football, Williams told the Herald that he sees nothing wrong with smoking marijuana -- that in fact, it's "just a plant." He also said he admired reggae singer Bob Marley, who was reputed to smoke it every day before his death.

Williams, who has been diagnosed with a social-anxiety disorder and was taking the anti-depressant Paxil, told the paper that he'd stopped taking the medication he'd once been a spokesman for. He said it interfered with his diet.

''Marijuana is 10 times better for me than Paxil,'' he said.

Williams' younger sister says people should stop judging him.

"He no longer wants to live in fear," Nisey Williams, 24, said in Thursday's online edition of The Dallas Morning News. "So he is opening up about everything and not living a lie.

The former Heisman Trophy winner played three seasons for New Orleans and considered retirement while with the Saints, coach Jim Haslett said.

"In 2001, Ricky came in my office and told me he was going to retire and play baseball," Haslett said. "I don't know if we talked him out of it. We told him he wasn't a very good baseball player -- maybe that did it."

Still, she was taken aback by his newspaper statements.

"I'd rather him not be this honest and this candid," Nisey Williams told the Morning News. "But it's his actions and his choice to speak out. Now people are going to have the total wrong idea about him and why he's retiring. After today, I don't even want to defend him anymore because people don't want to listen to the truth anymore. People think he's weird, so that will be the easy answer. They'll believe what they want to believe. But they don't know him and should quit judging him."

Nisey Williams, who will attend graduate school in Miami this fall paid by her brother, says he has done nothing that hasn't been done by other athletes.

"Other players have retired early from their sport. Other players have smoked marijuana, and Dennis Rodman even wore a wedding dress, so there's nothing new here," she said. "The good news is, Ricky doesn't care what people think anymore. He's happy with his decision, and that's one reason he's being so open about everything."

Williams didn't blossom until he was dealt to the Dolphins in 2002 for two first-round draft picks.

At times, Miami's biggest trade since 1970 looked like a steal. Williams led the NFL in 2002 with 1,853 yards rushing and broke nine team records. Last season he ran for 1,372 yards despite little offensive support.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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