Ricky being Ricky

I don’t know anymore whether to love the guy or hate the guy.

Ricky Williams, former star running back and marijuana smoking drifter, has returned to the Dolphins. This isn’t news — he’s been back at camp for over a month, now — but he’s still grabbing headlines.

The thing is… I’m actually starting to like him more and more.

Sure, he’s a flake. But he’s also possessing an understanding of life that few football players have — he’s not afraid to speak his mind philosophically. He’s a little dumb as far as history and other hard facts go, but he’s also got some interesting views on his own life and how it’s shaped up.

I missed the Mike Wallace 60 Minutes interview, where Williams said he wasn’t going to apologize to his teammates for dumping the team (and sending them to a 4-12 record) right before the season started (with a plan of tenting and smoking weed in Asia) and that he still smoked marijuana. I got a second chance, however, when Mike Wallace (who was refused a one on one interview) went ahead and sat in with the media crowd and started grilling Williams during a recent press conference.

I heard some of the audio on ESPNRadio, but I couldn’t find any transcript. Regardless, Wallace was asking great questions, and Ricky gave some good answers. It was almost as if Ricky was in his true element on the podium — playing the interview game as skillfully as he could. Not too shabby of an acomplishment for a player who wouldn’t even take his helmet off during press interviews his rookie year.

Still, I did grab this, from an AP article, that sums up the Ricky Williams interview session:

Another factor in the wide range of subjects was the presence of a 60 Minutes camera crew and Mike Wallace, who did a story on Williams late last year. This time Williams declined a one-on-one interview with CBS, so Wallace took part in a group session with a roomful of reporters and cameramen.

Wallace had to ask Williams how to pronounce Dolphins coach Nick Saban’s name, but did inspire expansive comments from the mercurial running back, such as on the subject of Bush.

“When I was in school, at the time he was the governor of Texas,” said Williams, who won the 1998 Heisman Trophy at the University of Texas. “Sometimes he would work out in our weight room. I had a chance to talk to him a couple of times. I was lifting, he was just riding a bike. I think he’s a nice person.”

The interview had the flow of a Dolphins offensive series, meaning it proceeded fitfully, but Williams moved gamely from topic to topic:

• He said he doesn’t miss marijuana.

“I can’t do that anymore. I get tested twice a week.”

• He owes the Dolphins $8.6 million for breaching his contract by retiring last year, but said he doesn’t know his financial situation.

“I have no idea. The way I live my life, if I have a place to stay and I have food on the table, I’m not broke.”

• He said he doesn’t think about the war in Iraq and won’t join the military.

“There’s a war outside, but I think there’s also a war inside all of us. When you talk about world peace and people doing all these things for peace, and they want peace and want to be treated fairly, I think it really starts with yourself and looking for the peace inside yourself. When each of us can do that, then the peace spreads outward.”

• He said he’s not having fun since returning to football, but doesn’t mind.

“You look across from fun and you see work. The fun is the result of hard work. If you work hard you get to the fun. … The process of coming to work every day gives me more and more freedom.”

• Teammates tease him about his scruffy beard, saying he looks homeless, but he sees no reason to shave.

“Some people have a job, some people’s wives don’t like it, some people are uncomfortable with it. But I don’t have a reason to shave.”

• His first tattoo was Mighty Mouse in green and gold, his San Diego high school’s colors.

“I was at Venice Beach with my girlfriend at the time, and I said it would be cool to get a tattoo. The way I look at them, they’re somewhat of a map. You see a tattoo, and you think back to a time in your life.”

Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt invested heavily in Williams, and both are now out of the NFL, earning him a reputation as a coach killer. But he has hit it off with Saban, who said Williams’ work ethic ranks with the best on the team.

Saban also said he respects Williams’ enigmatic views.

“With differences in people and personalities, I don’t think we’re in a business where one size fits all,” Saban said. “In this day and age, your ability to get different kinds of people to play well together and develop chemistry and enjoy what they’re doing is probably a key to being successful.”

Yeah, he sounds like a total hippie, but at least he’s saying more than just the usual sports cliches.

That’s reason enough itself to like Ricky Williams a little bit more, day by day.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 25th, 2005