Ricky being Ricky

Ricky Williams showed up to work on his first day as a Raven clean-shaven and without the dreadlocks which have hung out of the veteran running back's helmet for much of his NFL career.

Williams might look a little different than how we're used to seeing him, but it's clear from talking with the 34-year-old that he's still the same philosophical guy who is often misunderstood by many fans, media members and NFL executives alike.

"It's just a mirror of my maturity," Williams said of his new clean-cut look. "I think we all go through phases, and I think, at my heart, I am a rebel. I think I have found more productive and mature ways to express my rebellion."

After passing his physical yesterday, the rebel's two-year contract with the Ravens became official, and he gets slotted in as the team's backup running back for the 2011 season.

Williams said that he expects to see around 8-12 carries per game as Ray Rice's backup, a role which he says he preferred to a larger opportunity with the Lions, who also expressed interest in signing the former Heisman Trophy winner and were willing to offer around 20 carries a game.

"It was a tough decision," Williams said. "The opportunity in Detroit opened up, and it would have been a chance for me to play a lot and to be able to contribute a lot. They are a young and upcoming team, and that is always exciting to be a part of an organization turning around.

"I thought about Baltimore, and it is an established organization with a lot of (veterans). Playing against them almost every year for the past six or seven years, you don't like playing against them because of the way they play, and I thought I would fit in well in this situation and be able to enjoy myself and possibly win a Super Bowl."

While he took part in yesterday's practice wearing No. 38, Williams said he has already made a deal with fellow running back Jalen Parmele to procure Williams' longtime number, 34. The 11-year veteran did not take on a big workload in his first practice; he got minimal reps with the Ravens' second-team offense, and is not expected to suit up on Thursday when the Ravens open the preseason against the Eagles.

Williams made it clear during his post-practice session with reporters that he's excited to join the Ravens, but anyone who's familiar with his story knows that football doesn't define Williams' life. He's a traveler, a qualified yoga instructor and a vegan, qualities which make him stand out from the pack among his NFL peers.

"Football is how I put food on the table," Williams said. "It's my passion and it's what I love to do. But, I think it's important to keep things in perspective. Traveling and seeing the road has helped me kind of keep balance in my life. It makes coming back to football that much more fun because I have that balance."

There was a time when Williams might not have had complete balance in his life. He tested positive for marijuana in 2004, and subsequently announced his retirement. Williams then returned to football in 2005, but was suspended for the entire 2006 season after reportedly failing a drug test for the fourth time.

"When I think back on those times, from the outside looking in, yeah, I was suspended and I was in a lot of trouble," Williams said. "Internally, I was able to travel, to see the world and to work on myself. All told, I am very, happy with where I am today. It's hard for me to look back and say I have many regrets."

Williams might be 34 years old, but because he missed time due to his suspension and split carries with Ronnie Brown in Miami the last handful of seasons, you could argue that Williams has a lot more juice left in his legs than your average 34-year-old running back.

If you did make that argument, Williams would agree with you.

"I feel good," Williams said. "(That's) how I feel now, and I do a good job taking care of my body. If I keep doing that, chances are I will stay healthy and I will be able to do whatever is asked of me."

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