Hello Ricky! And Just Say No to the Team Obliterator
As a Ravens fan, I was taken aback by the team’s signing yesterday of veteran running back Ricky Williams.
Ricky Williams is coming here? To the Ravens?
It’s not often that the signing of a backup running back can make you do a double take.
The reason for my pleasant surprise at Ricky’s signing is because we Raven fans are about to get an up close glimpse at the most fascinating athlete of my generation.
Anyone familiar with the world of the NFL knows the Ricky litany by heart. It’s too long to list here so Google it if you are unfamiliar. Ricky is certainly not your average dumb jock. He’s a very deep thinker who thinks about life differently than pretty much all other athletes. He’s into holistic medicine and philosophy. He’s been very open about his weed smoking and his social anxiety disorder. He’s done things his way. Ricky is a different cat, that’s for sure.
And yet, when he came back to the NFL, his teammates, after some initial wariness, loved the guy. He was a team player that took a backup role after being a star his whole career and never complained.
The ESPN documentary “Run Ricky Run” was one of the best of the “30 for 30” series, partly because the film presented Ricky warts and all, didn’t judge him or coddle him and showed a man learning how to be a NFL ballplayer, teammate, husband and dad. That he ultimately accomplishes that at the end makes you want to root for Ricky.
Ricky Williams first caught my eye, as he did every other football fan, during his days at Texas. Ricky was the dreadlocked heir to another UT legend, Earl Campbell. He seemed to have it all: great ballplayer, charismatic, etc. Everybody remembers when the Eagles fans booed Donovan McNabb in 1999. Well, they booed him because they wanted Ricky. After watching Ricky break the NCAA career rushing record, I became a fan.
Since then, Ricky’s career has been a wild and crazy odyssey that's never quite hit the massive crossover stardom most folks thought he was capable of. Part of that is because crossover stardom wasn't something Ricky wanted. He wanted to be his own man, not who fans, coaches and the media think he should be.
And now, Ricky is a Raven. Many Ravens fans are wondering how the team could let Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee walk and replace them with Ricky and Vonte’ Leach. But the moves are pretty logical in my opinion. McGahee was too expensive, plain and simple. Le’Ron wanted to carry the ball. The Ravens couldn’t guarantee him he’d carry the ball. Plus, I think management may have gotten a little tired of his act.
Leach is a throwback to 2008 when Lorenzo Neal was here. Ray Rice will love him, as will Ricky. Around the goal line, my feeling is the Ravens will use Ricky like they used McClain and McGahee. Other than the fact that McGahee is younger than Ricky, the Ravens are fine in the backfield.
Personally, I wish I could be in the locker room after Mike Preston’s first hit piece on Ricky – which actually has already happened with Preston comparing Ricky to convicted drug trafficker Bam Morris even though Ricky hasn’t had so much as a speeding ticket in four years. Way to welcome the new guy, right?
Just say no to T.O.
I know some people will eat up the irony of me typing the words “just say no” after a piece about Ricky Williams, but allow me to move ahead to talk about another veteran free agent out there.
With Ricky’s signing, the Ravens have filled the hole at backup RB, so now the attention turns to the wide receiver position. Doesn’t it always with the Ravens. The Ravens trying to fill the hole at wideout is like the Flyers never-ending search for a stable no.1 goalie.
With Derrick Mason leaving for the Jets, Donte' Stallworth gone to the Redskins and T.J. Houshmandzadeh being as wanted by Ravens fans as the ebola virus, the club is a bit thin on proven experience. The Ravens have rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss in the mix, as well as free agent flier James Hardy and last chance Justin Harper all seeking a spot alongside Anquan Boldin on the outside. Needless to say, that group doesn’t exactly inspire thoughts of a Super Bowl-caliber corps.
The fanbase is antsy to see Ozzie Newsome sign a veteran. As is usually the case whenever he becomes available, Terrell Owens’ name has been bandied about in connection with the Ravens. Because he had a productive year with an awful Bengals team last year, the thought is, why not? He’s better than anyone else we have other than Boldin.
Allow me to list my reasons for why not.
1) The history - First, T.O. was going to be a Raven in 2004 but spurned them to go play for Philadelphia, leaving the Ravens high and dry. T.O. is the ultimate front-runner and when he was flying high with the Eagles in 2004, he had the gall to mock Ray Lewis’ pregame dance after scoring a TD against the Ravens. He wasn’t dancing like that when the Ravens were stomping his Cowboys four years later. Anyway you don’t disrespect God’s Linebacker like Owens did. God certainly repaid him with all of Owens’ subsequent troubles. As if that weren’t enough, T.O. said some very nasty things about Ozzie Newsome in his book. Trust me, Ozzie would rather lick elephant poop than allow T.O. to play for the Ravens.
2) T.O.’s age and torn ACL - He’s 37-years-old coming off major knee surgery. Yes, he’s always in great shape. Yes, he's big and physical with great running skills after the catch. But do you want a 37-year-old with a gimpy knee as your No.2 wideout?
3) Team Obliterator – While I’m not very keen on Skip Bayless, I must say, this nickname he bestowed on T.O. pretty much sums it up. You know in the end he’ll cause a distraction of some kind or make himself the focus or divide the locker room. It’s not worth the risk. He reminds me of Maury Levy’s “He rain made you” speech to Stringer Bell on “The Wire.” If you win with T.O., it’s because he made it rain and he takes the credit. If you don’t win, he’ll find a way to make it not his fault.
4) The Diva Factor – If you thought Mason and Houshmandzadeh’s complaining about touches was bad, wait till you get a load of T.O. He’ll be glaring and bitching at Joe Flacco by Week 2 if he doesn’t think he’s getting it enough. He’ll make the uneasiness with Housh last year look like kid’s play. Unlike Mason, T.O. will make sure the camera is on when he starts yelling at Flacco for the ball. And just like Housh, you can pretty much count on all the whining to end with a dropped pass in a crucial situation.
Maybe I’m wrong about T.O. and he really has learned how to be a good teammate. Maybe he can help the Ravens. But there’s just too much history here and even if T.O. could help, would you want to deal with the other things he potentially brings to the table? Or stake your season on his surgically repaired knee? Signing T.O. now is like the Orioles signing Vlad Guerrero this offseason: it would have been better if it happened seven years ago. Plus, like I said, Ozzie will NEVER deal with Terrell Owens after what T.O. said about Ozzie in his book. When it comes to Owens, just say no Ravens fans.