What's Ricky been Smoking?
By Ray Ratto
Special to ESPN.com
Ricky Williams wants to come back. Everyone agrees the Oakland Raiders are the perfect place for him because they need a running back, he is a running back, and because of his casual view toward marijuana usage (i.e., he is a big fan of Father Ganja).
You see, the Raiders are supposed to be America's Halfway House, the home for wayward athletes with issues either outstanding or under repair. That's been the word for years now -- I Fought The Law, And The Law Chased Me To Al Davis.
Well, no. I mean, what have they got extracurricularly speaking that Baltimore doesn't have? Or the Portland Trail Blazers? Or the University of Miami? Or the University of Missouri? Or BYU? Or a hundred other places where the boys get a little too rambunctious for their own good?
In fact, though, Ricky Williams' ideas about Oakland are as antiquated as the rest of America's. Think what you must about Cole Ford and The Story That Couldn't Be Made Up By Anyone Ever, but the Raiders actually aren't Ricky Williams' cup of meat after all.
That is, if what we know about the new Raiders is actually true and not some cheap ploy to attract an audience that doesn't have a jersey with the number 69 and the name "ANTICHRIST III" on the back.
The new Raiders have the image of raisers of the grandest kind of hell. Some of them talk it up for the cameras (see Sapp, Warren) because they know what is required when the red light goes on.
Mostly, though, the Raiders are a lot like every other team in the NFL, with as few miscreants as all the others. I mean, once Al Davis' methodological inspiration of looking at talent first and deportment second became common knowledge, every other team in the NFL started to operate that way, thereby thinning out the herd.
I mean, they have the Darrell Russell case in their recent past, which was ultimately dismissed but led inexorably to his professional extinction, but after that, it's just Sebastian Janikowski's occasional sense of madcap. They are, frankly, pretty normal by NFL standards.
Thus, they are no more looking for someone whose guiding career light is Cheech Marin than the vice principal at a Catholic grade school in Lenexa, Kan.
See, that's the stumbling block with the Ricky-To-Raiderworld rumors. Al Davis likes his hell raisers to be devoted to football to an extent that far exceeds Williams'. He will take a guy with a dodgy rep if that guy can knock the crap out of a quarterback, put a body on the other guy's best linebacker, and make a hole where none existed.
He will not, however, take a flyer on a guy whose want has been questioned so aggressively even by former teammates. Especially one who plans to command big dog money, as Williams will. Al wants guaranteed value, and Ricky's heart just doesn't seem to be with the gig right now.
Too bad for them both, too, because the Raiders' grand plan did not include having Amos Zereoue as the go-to guy in the offense. Zereoue is a decent enough talent, and he certainly showed some gumption last week in the loss at Houston, but he isn't the guy into whose mouth you insert your paycheck every week. Ricky Williams could be, even though he transformed neither the Saints nor Dolphins, but he's just got too much stuff in his in-box right now -- even if right now were an option, which the NFL seems to think it isn't.
In short, the captivating rumor about Ricky Williams The Raider isn't all that captivating after all, given that it lacks that certain ... what is that word we're looking for ... oh, yes. Plausibility.
Next year? Maybe. I mean, Al's a flexible guy when he absolutely, positively has to be, but he's not as spry day to day as he used to be. Ricky Williams, therefore, is one stretch too far. So for now, as Vince Lombardi once said, "Smoke 'em if you got 'em."
Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com