Williams ready to share his compassion

Updated: November 23, 2004, 11:44 AM ET
Associated Press

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. -- Retired running back Ricky Williams has turned up in an unlikely spot -- at a Northern California school for holistic medicine.

 Ricky Williams

Last summer, Williams, 27, abruptly retired from the Miami Dolphins because he disagreed with the NFL over a disputed drug test. Then, he dropped out of sight.

He resurfaced in Nevada County as a student of the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda.

"I realized a while back that I have an innate ability to be compassionate," he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "and I saw that the strength of compassion is something that healers have and healers use."

Williams gave up the $5 million he would have earned this season, which would have been his sixth in the NFL, amid reports that he faced a league suspension this year for substance abuse.

Williams is now about a month into a 17-month course at the California College of Ayurveda in Grass Valley, about 45 miles northeast of Sacramento.

"Ayurveda deals with using your environment to put yourself in balance," he said. "I've realized, both on a psychological and physical level, that the things we do in football don't bring more harmony to your life. They just bring more disharmony," he said.

Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, and his attorney, David Cornwell, both think it's likely that he'll return to football next year. Steinberg calls Williams' departure "a sabbatical."

But Williams said, "I understand their wishful thinking. It's easy math. If I play, it puts more money in their pocket."

Although he wouldn't rule out a return to football, he indicated the game was far from his mind.

"I loved playing football, but the reasons I loved football were just to feed my ego," Williams said. "And any time you feed your ego, it's a one-way street."

He was evasive on the question of his drug use.

"I try not to get too involved in what other people think about me," he said. As for the idea that he quit because he wanted to be free to smoke dope, he laughed. "I think it's funny," he said.

Without the back who led the NFL in rushing in 2002 with 1,853 yards and then piled up 1,372 last year, the Dolphins are 1-8 and tied for their worst start since 1967.

Although he insisted, "Money has never been an issue -- I would play for free," Williams said he was upset the Dolphins didn't make good on what he said was a promise to him in 2002 to renegotiate after the 2003 season.

The Dolphins have sued him, demanding repayment of the $8.6 million they gave him in bonuses. He said he's prepared to pay them back. In the meantime, he said he's supporting his three children.

"I have nothing else to do with my money," he said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press