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At 36, Chiefs’ Roaf not feeling his age

The Pro Bowl tackle is healthy and ready to chase Kansas City’s title goal.
Wednesday, May 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:55 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

KANSAS CITY — Willie Roaf’s mammoth body just turned 36 and he’s feeling spry as a cat.

No more sore hamstrings. No more aching knees. And, most importantly to Kansas City fans with dreams of a Super Bowl — or at least their first playoff win in 13 years — no more thoughts of retirement.

If Larry Johnson is going to rush for 2,000 yards and the Chiefs’ offense is going to make one last run at a championship, then the Pro Bowl left tackle does not want to be left out.

Roaf’s even working about as hard as he ever did in postseason conditioning drills. Stopping for an interview on Tuesday after a vigorous workout, his massive upper torso was drenched with sweat.

“I feel good,” he said. I’m working with the young guys. I’m still strong. I just have to make sure I keep running and take care of my conditioning.”

He’s also impressed with first-year head coach Herm Edwards. It was a conversation with his new boss that helped persuade Roaf — who turned 36 on April 16 — to come back for what is going to be his 14th season of trading body blows with very large, very aggressive men who every year seem to get younger and younger.

“I had a meeting with coach Edwards. He’s a great coach,” Roaf said. “He’s been around, played in the league a long time. It made sense to come back next year and give it another chance. Talking to him, I just thought we had some unfinished business. We needed to get back and see what we could do.”

With 12 selections to the Pro Bowl, the 320-pound Roaf can lay claim to being one of the greatest left tackles in the game. Just as teammate Will Shields, also with 12 Pro Bowl selections, is considered one of the great right guards.

At one time last year, it appeared both of their great careers were ending. Roaf missed six games with various injuries, principally a pulled hamstring, and Shields battled arthritis in his lower back.

But first Shields and now Roaf have decided to take one more lap, one more shot at the Super Bowl appearance that has always eluded them.

“I thought about (retiring). I talked to Will and some of the guys,” Roaf said. “Then last year we finished so strong at the end of the year. It was great seeing Will come back. That helped, too.”

A 37-3 rout of playoff-bound Cincinnati in the regular season finale left the Chiefs with five wins in their last seven games and a 10-6 record. They were the only 10-win team not to make the postseason.

“We were laughing and having a good time when we played Cincinnati,” Roaf said. “At the end of the year, guys were feeling good. We were having a lot of fun. I was feeling good”

Along with tight end Tony Gonzalez and left guard Brian Waters, Kansas City put four members of its offensive line in the Pro Bowl and paved the way for Johnson to become a star in his first season as a starter. Stepping in for an injured Priest Holmes the last nine games, Johnson rushed for over 100 yards each time, ending up with 1,750 yards and a Pro Bowl invitation.

Now, there will be an increased emphasis on the running game with new offensive coordinator Mike Solari. Johnson is guaranteed to be the starter from the opening kickoff of the season, whether Holmes decides to return or not. Many fans are speculating on the possibility of a 2,000-yard season for the fourth-year Penn State product.

“It would be great for me to be a part of Larry Johnson rushing for 2,000 yards, at this time in my career,” Roaf said. “That’s something I never imagined being a part of, and that would be exciting.”


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