Roaf Wants Winning To Continue

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Saints tackle William Roaf has posted a lot of big numbers since New Orleans made him their No. 1 draft pick back in 1993 _ six straight Pro Bowls as a starter, played in 117 games, protected a dozen quarterbacks and handed out and received thousands of hits. It's never added up to the numbers he wants and expected, though. Those that would mean a winning season. ``I never thought I'd go this long without at least one winning season,'' Roaf said. ``I expected more than this.'' So far a break-even 8-8 mark his rookie year is the closest Roaf has come. That's been followed up with seasons that never reached that point again, including two 6-10 marks and two 3-13 records in the last four years. Roaf was named to the NFL team of the 90s, but even the honors had begun to have a bitter taste. ``Last year was probably the lowest point in my career,'' Roaf admitted. ``It just dragged me down. I didn't even want to be here anymore.'' Even the housecleaning that swept out coach Mike Ditka and his entire staff didn't help Roaf shake off his depression. When coach Jim Haslett and general manager Randy Mueller took over one of the first orders of business was to talk to Roaf. ``He was obviously frustrated by the last couple of years,'' Haslett said. ``They weren't winning and all of what was going on here he wasn't happy. We had to sell him that we were going to change things and try to do things right.'' It was a hard sell. ``I guess I began to get hopeful when I saw all the free agents they brought in,'' Roaf said. ``Then early in the season we lost some, but we were putting together some good drives, doing some good things. ``But I really began to believe things had changed when I started seeing Ricky (Williams) start getting yards.'' Williams, who gained only 884 rushing yards last year, has 907 through nine games this season. He's also scored eight rushing touchdowns. Williams has also gained 381 yards receiving with one touchdown. The Saints are off to a 6-3 start, with a five game winning streak going into this weekend's game with the Carolina Panthers. They are in second place in the NFC West. The good start has reassured Roaf for the most part, although he admits to still having a few qualms that the turnaround may not happen soon enough, that his career could end with many honors but not enough victories. ``I do worry about it,'' Roaf said. ``But I think we're working hard right now to correct things. We're a playing hard right now, we're a playoff team at this point. We just have to keep playing hard as a playoff team for the last seven games.'' Roaf, who went to Duke University a few years ago for a diet regime, took part in the Saints' offeseason condition program. He's actually a little heavier this year at 319 pounds, but looks and plays leaner. ``I'm heavier but feel lighter because of my conditioning,'' Roaf said. ``This is the best shape I've been in and I'm healthy.'' With the Saints playing better and the victories adding up, Roaf is again daring to hope that he will have a few winning seasons and maybe even some postseason victories before his career ends. ``I'm not dwelling on the past,'' Roaf said. ``We're playing pretty good right now and doing some good things. When everybody got here and after I saw how everything is, it's like I'm starting over again. It's like I'm a rookie, but I'm a 30-year-old rookie.''