Ricky Williams doesn't shy away from his support for marijuana.
He used the drug as a means of recovery from the pounding he took over his 10-year NFL career, which included two seasons (2002 and 2003) leading the league in rush attempts with a combined 775 carries.
And he maintains the league should allow players to use the drug—which is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington—to combat the pain they suffer from the grind of the violent game.
Speaking on a panel at the 2016 High Times SoCal Medical Cannabis Cup (h/t Joe Harrington of the Austin American-Statesmen), Williams elaborated on his stance:
It didn't make sense to me because I was putting my body under so much stress, and...I got to a point in my career where I realized I'm not going to be able to do this much longer. And at the same time, the teams don't care. ... I had to take care of myself, and one of the ways I took care of myself was using cannabis. I go see the doctor. He would wiggle my knee around. He would...give me some anti-inflammatories, some pain pills, and say, "Just try and rest." That's it.
I think there's a better way.
Williams tested positive for marijuana several times during his NFL career, notably failing multiple tests for the drug following the 2003 season. After the league handed him a hefty fine and four-game suspension, Williams walked away from football entirely shortly before training camp in 2004.
He said his decision to retire in his prime wasn't as much about principle as it was about his well-being.
"Somehow I was able to recover through the week and come back out there and take another pounding," he said. "Then finally one day I realized I can't do this anymore, so I retired from football and...went to go find myself. And then I got sued for a lot of money and had to come back."
Fans remember Williams for his off-field sagas and unorthodox behavior as much as, if not more than, they remember the remarkable career he had as the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner and one of just 29 NFL players to eclipse 10,000 rushing yards in his career.
The NFL is unlikely to alter its drug-testing policy for marijuana, but that won't prevent Williams, an outspoken and philosophical speaker, from sharing his thoughts on the well-being of players in a sport he feels took years from his life.