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Saints’ Ricky Williams Breaks Ankle

November 13, 2000

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ An NFL franchise with arguably the worst luck through the years received more bad news Sunday.

Ricky Williams, New Orleans’ star running back for whom the Saints traded their entire 1999 draft, broke his left ankle in two places late in a 20-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

The injury left the streaking Saints (7-3), who have won six in a row, in a state of shock. Coach Jim Haslett was near tears when he told the media of Williams’ injury.

The injury occurred on a 2-yard run with about six minutes left, a rush that put the former Heisman Trophy winner from Texas right at 1,000 yards for the season.

Haslett said Williams, who leads the NFL with 30 touches a game, will likely be lost for 6-8 weeks, meaning he may be back for the playoffs. The team’s best winning streak since 1991 moved the Saints into great position for the postseason, where the franchise has never won a game.

``We’ve got to find a way to keep it going,″ offensive lineman Willie Roaf said. ``We’re going to keep fighting.″

Some of the Saints were unaware of the seriousness of the injury until interviewed by reporters. Many just shook their heads in disbelief as Williams hobbled to the showers on crutches.

``It’s devastating to me,″ said rookie running back Chad Morton, who likely will take over for Williams in the backfield. ``I feel sick about it right now. I can’t even enjoy this win. He’s our offense.″

Williams became the first Saints runner to hit the 1,000-yard mark since Dalton Hilliard did it in 1989, giving New Orleans a powerful back who can punish teams with the lead in the fourth quarter. New Orleans improved to 6-0 when leading after three quarters.

All of that is now gone as the 236-pound Williams faces surgery Monday.

``I am still kind of shaking right now knowing that he’s hurt,″ Morton said. ``Maybe he’ll back for the playoffs. Maybe a miracle will happen.″

Williams, on crutches for the first time since he was 10, greeted the media with a smile.

``I was talking to coach Haslett and he said you can’t control things like that,″ Williams said when asked how he could be smiling. ``What’s done is done and I have to keep working hard and hopefully come back for the playoffs.″

The injury will also hurt the second-year pro in the pocketbook. Williams signed a seven-year deal worth $68.4 million on paper. But some of that money is based on incentives, like a $1 million bonus for rushing for more than 1,600 yards. He was on pace to get 1,608 before his broken ankle.

Williams said his injury is not the end of the season for the Saints.

``I look at it the other way,″ he said. ``I helped us get the win and we’ve got to move on from that. Look at our defense, the way they make plays. And Jeff (Blake) is going to pick it. We’ll be OK.″

While Williams remained upbeat about his comeback, the team’s offensive line took the news particularly hard.

``Right now, we’re pretty upset about it,″ said Wally Williams. ``We take pride in protecting our guys and Ricky is one of our guys. We open holes for him and pick him off the ground when he’s down.

``It hurts. I’m going to be sick the rest of the night just thinking about this, but tomorrow is a new day and Sunday is another opportunity.″

Even the Panthers had an opinion on the injury of an NFC West rival.

``That’s not good at all. You hate to see that,″ said Carolina safety Mike Minter. ``The guy is having a heck of a season and for something like that to happen, wow, that’s sad.″

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