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Heisman Winner To Miss Game


Running back Ricky Williams' slow-healing ankle sprain will keep him out of the next exhibition game, but he is expected to be ready for the regular season.

Williams, for whom coach Mike Ditka traded his entire draft and more in April, sprained his left ankle in the first exhibition game against Miami on Aug. 13. Trainer Dean Kleinschmidt said a medical evaluation at LSU Medical Center on Tuesday confirmed the Saints staff's diagnosis: a sprain, with no need for surgery.

"Ricky is fine, he'll be ready for the season opener," Ditka said from his car as he left the Saints facility.

Williams, who wears a protective boot on the injured ankle, left camp refusing to speak to reporters.

Williams will miss Saturday's home game against Green Bay. After that, his condition will be reassessed. The Saints play Sept. 2 against Tennessee before opening the regular season on Sept. 12 at home against Carolina.

The news for Pro Bowl defensive end Joe Johnson was much worse he is out for the season after rupturing the patella tendon in his right knee during a line drill. His knee apparently crumbled without contact.

Offensive tackle William Roaf also was injured, spraining his left knee and ankle when players landed on his leg in a pileup. He was helped off the field and Kleinschmidt said later that he will miss the Green Bay exhibition game.

The Saints traded away eight draft picks to get Williams, the Texas running back who won the Heisman Trophy by tearing through opposing defenses. The team believes Williams is the key to kick-starting New Orleans' ground game and running all the way to the playoffs.

Williams also signed an incentive-laden contract based on yards gained. Because of that, a long-term injury could cost him millions of dollars.

After back-to-back 6-10 records, Ditka labeled Williams the final piece of the puzzle, saying a first-class ball carrier was all he needed to make the Saints a winner.

The Saints' offense was ranked 28th in the league last season, the running game was dead last.

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