By David Ginsburgh
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ricky Williams is retiring from the NFL.
This time, however, it appears to be for good.
The 34-year-old Williams told the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday he won’t be back to fulfill the second year of a contract he signed in August. Playing as a backup to Ray Rice this year, Williams ran for 444 yards and scored two touchdowns.
He also became the 26th player in NFL history to reach 10,000 yards rushing, reaching the plateau in the season finale at Cincinnati.
“The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life,” Williams said. “I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly, fun. … As for what’s next, I am excited about all the opportunities ahead — continuing my education, running The Ricky Williams Foundation and whatever other opportunities present themselves.”
Williams retired previously before the 2004 season when facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. He returned in 2005, then left to spend the 2006 season with Toronto of the Canadian Football League.
After an outstanding college career at Texas, where he won the Heisman Trophy, Williams broke into the NFL in 1999 with the New Orleans Saints. Mike Ditka, then coach of the Saints, traded all the team’s draft and first- and third-round picks in 2000 to pick Williams fifth overall.
Williams spent only three years with New Orleans, but during over 11 years in the league he had five 1,000-yard rushing seasons and finished with 10,009 yards on the ground.
Williams led the NFL in 2002 with 1,853 yards rushing for the Miami Dolphins and received his lone Pro Bowl invitation that season. He backed that up with 1,372 yards in 2003, giving him what remains the two most productive rushing seasons in Dolphins history.
Although Williams’ last start was in 2009, he enjoyed coming off the bench for the Ravens.
“It’s been interesting,” he said in November. “It’s been an adjustment for me, but I love the organization and I love my teammates so I’m having a good time. I’m enjoying myself. Anytime you play a team sport, the success of the team really makes everything better. It’s nice.”
Baltimore went 12-4 this season and lost to New England in the AFC championship game.
“He was great to be around and to work with every single day,” said Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh of Williams.