Interview: Hall of Fame tackle Willie Roaf loves makeup of 2020 Saints and Chiefs
When discussing the best tackles in NFL history, his name must come up.
When talking about the best tackle in New Orleans Saints history, as well as the best offensive lineman in franchise history, it is a no brainer.
Willie Roaf tops the list, to be certain.
Roaf was named to the NFL Team of the Decade for both the 1990’s and 2000’s. He is in the New Orleans Saints Ring of Honor and the Saints Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 13 NFL seasons, Roaf was named to 11 Pro Bowls, was named first team All-Pro six times and second team All-Pro three times.
While Willie was truly one of the nicest guys to ever play the game and I experienced that first-hand by hosting his radio show when he played for the team, he is one of the toughest to ever don the black and gold, living up to his “Nasty” nickname.
Roaf enjoyed watching the Kansas City Chiefs, whom he played four years (2002-05) for, win the Super Bowl last season.
Roaf has enjoyed watching the New Orleans Saints, whom he played nine years for (1993-2001), win the Super Bowl in 2010.
Speaking on All Access on 106.1 FM Friday night, Roaf would love to see both of his former teams collide in Tampa in February in this year’s Super Bowl.
“That would be my dream and that looks quite possible,” Roaf said.
Does Roaf think it will be safe to play the 2020 season during the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I know the league and the teams are going to take every precaution possible,” Roaf said. “If it does not work out, it will not be because they did not work hard to everything they could to make it happen. I surely hope it all happens. I cannot imagine not having NFL football.”
Roaf remains a big fan of the New Orleans Saints, whom he watches regularly. He is a huge fan of Drew Brees.
“What makes Drew so special is that he obviously works so hard at his craft,” Roaf said. “You can see how hard he prepares for games. Nothing he sees surprises him. He can come up with an answer for pretty much everything he sees from an opposing defense. He has talent but his work ethic is what sets him apart. He is a great leader as well and no one is more accurate.”
Naturally, Roaf pays close attention to offensive line play. When it comes to Cesar Ruiz or Erik McCoy playing center this year, not having an offseason or preseason is a factor.
“The center is the key position up front,” Roaf said. “He makes all the line calls, sets the blocking, the protection, has to see things and make the adjustments. It will not be easy just stepping in and playing there for anyone but Ruiz is obviously quite a talent. I could see them switching both players, at some point. It is a nice problem to have.”
When it comes to his position, Roaf feels certain that the Saints are in a great position.
“The Saints have the best pair of tackles in the NFL,” Roaf said. “Ryan Ramczyk is a really good run blocker and he is very good at pass protection. He moves his feet well. Terron Armstead, when healthy, is elite on the blind side. He is such a good athlete. You can see how quick he is and how he can adapt to all situations. The Saints have a really good offensive line.”
When it comes to preparation the lack of preseason games will be a factor.
“I think you need a few preseason games,” Roaf said. “Scrimmages are good but not having a real game situation and not facing another team is not the best way to get ready for the season. You need some game experience. Of course, that is really important for new players, the rookies and new free agents you sign. It is their chance to make the team or make it in the league.”
As far as the preseason moving forward, Roaf sees the reduction of games as an advantage.
“I think you could play as few as two games and it would be fine,” Roaf said. “The idea of playing three is better than four. I don’t think you need four games to get ready. I know the fans don’t like the preseason games. You need them but you don’t need four of them.”
Going to 17 regular season games will tax players, mentally and physically.
“It is tough on your body,” Roaf said. “I can tell you that I don’t miss training camp at all and during the season, it is hard to get your body into playing condition 16 times and now you have to think about 17 of those. Getting an extra week off in the regular season is really important.”
Does Roaf like the playoffs expanding to seven teams in each conference?
“I like the idea that more teams can make the playoffs,” Roaf said. “I like the idea that the best team in each conference is the only one to get a bye.”
When it comes to the top 100 players in the NFL, named most recently on NFL Network, Roaf disagrees with two of the primary players and where they were ranked.
“I think Patrick Mahomes is definitely the top player,” Roaf said. “He should be number one. No disrespect to Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson but Mahomes is the best. Ask anyone that plays against him. I think Brees belongs in the top 10. How do you leave him out after the way he played last year? It doesn’t matter how old he is.”
How will the 2020 New Orleans Saints fare?
“I like the Saints a lot,” Roaf said. “I have them as the favorite to win the NFC and play in the Super Bowl. I think San Francisco is good and I think Dallas is improved and has good players. Minnesota and Green Bay are solid and you know Tampa Bay will figure in with their skill but they will have to protect (Tom) Brady. I think the Saints are the team to beat with their offensive line, Brees, (Alvin) Kamara, Michael Thomas and their offensive line.”
And what about the AFC?
“Of course, I like the Chiefs,” Roaf said. “Baltimore is really good. They added some really good players and they were already stout. I think those are the two best teams. Wouldn’t it be something if the Saints and Chiefs end up playing for the title? I would pull for them both.”
Saints fans will always pull for Roaf, as will Louisiana Tech fans. Roaf still has family living in Louisiana while he lives in Florida with wife, Angela.
“I am never far away and always get back to the New Orleans area,” Roaf said. “It will always feel like home.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…