Ricky Williams, you got taken, but good.
You got ripped off like an Amish tourist in the French Quarter.
You got a great deal on Elvis's wristwatch and an Okefenokee
time-share. Considering what the New Orleans Saints' front
office and Iron Mike Ditka and your diamond-dripping agents have
done to you, you'll soon be so tapped out you'll be schlepping
your Heisman to Pizza Huts at $50 a birthday party.
You signed the single worst contract since the Marla Maples
prenup. You hooked up with a nut bag for a coach and the
Washington Generals for a team. What makes it worse is that you
seem to be about the straight-up most decent young guy in
sports. Soft-spoken. Diligent. One of the rare guys who gives
something back. Now here we are, getting ready to kick off your
NFL career, and it's already fourth-and-12.
After what they did to you, Ricky, they should roll over and
have a cigarette. You'll get pretty much the NFL minimum (right
now that's $175,000) over the next seven years unless you start
making like Jim Brown, Jesse Owens and Secretariat rolled into
one. The only way you get all $57.3 million in bonuses is if
your first four years are as good as Terrell Davis's first four
were with the Denver Broncos. All he did was average 1,600 yards
a season. O.J. Simpson? Walter Payton? Barry Sanders? None of
them did that. Bottom line: You could put up the second-best
numbers in the history of the league and get rabbit pellets. Oh,
you're also locked in for seven years with no way out. Any
holdouts, they take back all or part of your $8.84 million
signing bonus. Nice work.
You ask Davis about this contract and watch his eyebrows go up
about three inches. "I guess it's doable," he says, "but you have
to stay healthy, play for a team that not only has the ball a lot
but doesn't play from behind a lot."
Stay healthy? You'll play on painted green cement in most games.
Ask Earl Campbell what a delight that is.
Keep the ball? The Faints had the worst rushing game in the NFL
last year and will start a cadaver at quarterback--Billy Joe
Interception--which means linebackers will be waiting on you
like dieting Dobermans.
Play from behind? Under Iron Brain Ditka, the Faints have
trailed at halftime or through the third quarter in 23 of their
32 games. Hey, Ricky, got any incentives for making particularly
nice pass blocks?
"I wanted to be fair," you say earnestly. "I wanted to earn my
Wonderful, Ricky, but do you know how many Faints backs have
ever run for 1,600 yards in a season? One, George Rogers, and he
did it 18 years ago. Any idea how many backs in the history of
the NFL have averaged 1,600 yards over their first four seasons?
Two--Davis and Eric Dickerson. And, pal, they didn't play for
the Faints. Put it this way: If you ever receive a drachma of
that Terrell Davis money, I'll personally come and tongue bathe
You let them get to what little ego you had, Ricky. They said,
"You da Man, right? Then go out there and show 'em!" Well, maybe
you haven't noticed, but the NFL isn't golf. Or rap. There is no
Man. You need help on the field, and you don't have it.
Look around. In a shrewd bit of horse-trading, Iron Brain
announced he was going to "give away the farm" for you. Then he
showed up on draft day in a Hawaiian shirt and did exactly that,
trading eight choices to get you. Seems like a stable man to
link your future to. Didn't he think he might need to draft
someone to play defense?
Your agent is a rapper named Master P, whose real name is Percy
Miller. Terrific guy, Master Percy. Gives the recipe for crack
cocaine on one of his CDs. Never represented a football star in
his life until you. Who was your second choice for an agent,
Robert Downey Jr.?
It's a shame is what it is. Shame on the Faints, who should redo
this deal right now just out of human decency. Shame on Ditka,
who needs to find a quiet padded room somewhere. Shame on Master
Percy and the kicks he gets test-driving a kid's life.
No need to check the schedule, Ricky. The only one getting played
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
After what the Saints, Ditka and Master P did to Ricky Williams,
they should roll over and have a cigarette.