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Ravens running back Ricky Williams has decided to retire after 11 seasons in the NFL, the team announced Tuesday.
Williams is calling it a career after one season in Baltimore, where he backed up Ray Rice and rushed for 444 yards and two touchdowns. Before playing with the Ravens, Williams spent three years in New Orleans and seven in Miami.
“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. I want to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches and supporters for the strength they’ve given me to overcome so much.”
The announcement comes just two weeks after Williams said that he planned to return to the Ravens next year for the final season of his two-year contract.
But a few days after the season, Williams got into a text-message conversation with former NFL coach Bill Parcells that changed his viewpoint.
“I was excited to express to him how excited I was about football about the way the season ended and how much I was looking forward to coming back,” Williams said Tuesday during a radio interview with Sid Rosenberg in Miami. “His reply kind of shook me a little bit. He said, ‘that’s good to hear, don’t chase this thing too long, you can contribute in other ways.’”
Williams said he then made a list of the people and reasons why he was continuing to play football.
“And my name was not on that list,” he said.
Williams said he was convinced that if he returned next season, his role would have expanded in the offense and the Ravens would have won the Super Bowl. Just knowing that he and the Ravens could have done that, Williams said, “made it that I didn’t really have to go out there and prove anything.”
Williams insisted that he’s happy with his decision, but also left open the possibility that a return to the game could be in his future.
“The easy answer is I’ve moved on, but the one thing I’ve learned about myself, ‘who the hell knows?’”
For now, however, Williams is focused on other ventures.
“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 said.
Williams leaves the NFL with 10,009 rushing yards and 66 touchdowns on 2,431 carries. He is just one of 26 players in NFL history to top 10,000 career rushing yards.
“Ricky, in his time here, made a valuable and lasting contribution,” Ravens Head Coach Harbaugh said. “I especially enjoyed getting to know him as a person, and I have the utmost respect for him. He was great to be around and to work with every single day.”
In his one season with the Ravens, Williams was a perfect fit. Rice routinely referred to him as the “best thing that ever happened to me,” and he re-affirmed that Tuesday after Williams announced his retirement.
“I was a big fan of Ricky before we were teammates, but being around him this year is the best thing that happened to me in my NFL career,” Rice said. “As a young player, you need to be around a guy who knows what he is doing, and Ricky was tremendous to learn from.”
Rice benefitted from Williams in the backfield and had the best season of his career, topping 2,000 yards from scrimmage and making his second Pro Bowl.
“I had the best year with him beside me, and that was no accident,” Rice said. “I believe that Ricky Williams is a Hall of Famer.”
“Ricky is one of the most productive rushers in league history, and he was a tremendous asset to our team this past season,” Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome added. “We enjoyed having him as a member of the Ravens, as his leadership, work ethic and commitment contributed to our success.”
Had he returned for another season, Williams would have been 35 years old and might have been the oldest running back in the league. Kevin Faulk, 35, and Sammy Morris, 34, are currently older but could also retire this offseason.
Williams’ decision creates a void at backup running back. The Ravens currently have second-year running back Anthony Allen, who had three carries last season, on the roster. Fellow second-year running back Damien Berry is also on the practice squad.
Williams retired from the NFL once before, in 2004. Williams came into the NFL as the fifth overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in the 1999 draft.
“I have to thank coach [John] Harbaugh and the Ravens organization for the opportunity they gave me this year,” Williams said. “I had so much fun and really appreciated the chance to finish on such a great note.”