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CSC Interview: Former New Orleans Fullback Mike Karney

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Mike Karney, who played Fullback for the Saints from 2004-2008, was gracious enough for an interview with me. Here is that discussion.

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So first things first: how are you enjoying life after football?

I'm enjoying it. It me took some time to adjust to not having a schedule that revolves around football, but being dad to my two boys, running our real estate rental business and enjoying a round of golf from time to time, smoking a stogie when time permits, are ways I'm enjoying life after football.

What have you been doing in your free time, assuming you have free time now? Are you still working, or are you fully retired?

Thankfully, I can say I'm fully retired. I was smart with my money and invested it wisely in multiple income-producing real estate properties. I dabble a little bit with broadcasting for Fox Sports West/LA in the fall as a color analyst covering High School football for the past 4 years. During NFL combine season, I do position specific coaching for EXOS in San Diego helping the top RBs prep for the combine and all that it entails. It keeps me close to the game and a way to give back to it.

DVR, Netflix, Hulu... what television shows keep you entertained?

The shows I watch are Criminal Minds, Mob Wives, Million Dollar Listing NY/LA, Dateline, 48 hours. That's a few that keep me entertained.

Now that your playing career is over, has that affected your ability to enjoy watching professional football?

It affected me my first year or two out, but now I somewhat enjoy the game. The problem is the game has changed so much with all the rules and regulations and then the fullback doesn't really exist anymore, so not my type football is being played on Saturdays or Sundays. But I'm still a fan of it.

What were your thoughts on Super Bowl 50?

Thought it was a good game. It was boring for the everyday fan probably, but I was impressed by Denver's defense and how they shut down Cam Newton. The cliche is true: defense wins championships. Denver proved that for sure.

Did you have a favorite Super Bowl commercial?

My favorite was the Doritos ultra-sound commercial. It was hilarious.

With Peyton Manning potentially riding off into the sunset after the Broncos' Super Bowl win, where does he rank among the all-time great QBs in your opinion? Who are your Top 5?

I'd put him second behind Tom Brady.

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Peyton Manning
  3. Joe Montana
  4. Brett Favre
  5. Drew Brees

On the other side of Super Bowl 50, much was made about Cam Newton's early departure in his post-game interview. Do you think he deserves the criticism he received for leaving in the middle of the interview?

Sure he does, but I couldn't imagine how he felt. I think you have to be humble in defeat as well as in victory. I think he learned from that and would do a better job of handling himself the next time. But he deserves the criticism because of being the face of the Carolina Panthers.

Much more attention was paid to Cam's behavior in the post-game interview than his on-the-field actions during the game. What were your thoughts on Cam seemingly avoiding diving for his lost fumble at a crucial moment late in the game?

I guess I have to go by what he said, which I believe, was that he didn't see the ball. I disagree with it, but that's what he said. It looked to me that he didn't want to sell out and instead was more worried about getting injured than recovering the ball. It was an unfortunate situation that happened that I'm sure he's learned from too.

Cam had told the media that if other teams didn't want him celebrating or dabbing around the field, they should keep him out of the end zone. Well, the Broncos succeeded. Do you think that changes Cam's behavior next year? If not, how would you feel as a player on an opposing team watching him celebrate like that? What if he was your teammate?

I wouldn't change. I believe you need to be who you are regardless. Don't conform to society when what you were doing was inspiring your teammates and fans. I'd be ticked off if I was on opposing team, but that's the game. Guys are allowed to celebrate. If he was my teammate, I'd tell him to keep doing it.

In the Super Bowl, one of the prop bets was betting whether or not Mike Carey would get a reversal call right or wrong. Did you place a bet on the "wrong?"

Didn't bet on it but knew he would get it wrong. He was awful all year on CBS and probably, in my estimation, won't be back.

Did you have any memorable gripes with an official during your playing days?

No I didn't. I was too busy blocking (laughing)

Officiating problems are only one of the blemishes the NFL is trying to rid itself of. The other looming problem is the NFL's handling of concussions and player safety. During your playing career, do you feel like the NFL as a body genuinely cared about your safety?

No, I do not. I believe everything they do is to just window dress to show the public, the fans, to make them think  that they're making it safer. To some respect, they have with rule changes, but the game is still a violent game, and having too many rules affects the overall play of the game. There's no real answer for it, but I do believe the secret is out about concussions and the direct affect of having too many and the potential long term affects from those concussions. I'm glad they're being held accountable and being forced to put money in a fund to help former players who have cognitive issues, among other things, from playing the game.

Have you seen Will Smith's new film "Concussion," and if not, do you plan on adding it to your Instant Queue?

Haven't seen it yet, and I don't need too either. I've done a lot of research on this whole CTE matter on my own and I'm glad that it's been discovered. If anything, we know what it is and the symptoms of it. For me personally, I'm taking the necessary measures to help repair my brain through understanding what I can do through diet, supplementation, and staying in shape.

President Barack Obama made headlines a while back stating that if he had sons, he would discourage them playing professional football due to health concerns. As a former player, would you encourage your sons to play professional football?

I remember him saying that. I have two boys and everyone always asks me the same question. My answer right now is, no, they're not playing contact football.  If they want to play then they will play flag football. When they are teenagers and then want to play contact football, I may let it happen. But for now my answer is no. I'm not going to put their head or body through any unnecessary physical harm that they just don't need right now. They can still learn the basics and fundamentals of the game through flag football. Plus, my boys are in a unique situation with having me as their father. I will be able to teach them about the game, the physicality of it, and the contact that's involved that most parents/dads can't give their son.

Moving to your professional career, do you have any regrets looking back on it?

I don't have any. I gave it my all and was told most my life that I was crazy to think I would play in the NFL. I proved a lot of people wrong when I made it and achieved what I was able to achieve at the highest level. One thing I know playing a great team sport like football is that there are things that are out of your control. If I could name one regret, it would of been to just let some things happen instead of trying to control them. But overall, I exceeded my own personal expectations and am proud of the career I was fortunate to have.

What about anything that stood out? What's your fondest memory of your career, especially if it came with the Saints?

My fondest memories is being drafted by the Saints and then my three touchdown performance against Dallas in 2006.

Any dirt you can give us Saints fans on Mr. Perfect Drew Brees? An embarrassing story? Something!?

Nah. I wish though. He's as clean as the white snow - great leader, better teammate. He deserves everything he has.

Fullback isn't the most glamorous of positions in the NFL and rarely are they given the credit they deserve for helping opening holes for the half back or blocking in pass protection. Because of your position, you had a great career in New Orleans, but it went unnoticed by the mass media. What allowed you to be so great at your job? Was it just your preparation? God-given talent?

Great question. I would have to say my preparation first and foremost. I was a student of the game and loved watching film and studying my opponents. A lot people don't know or forget that I started as a rookie. The play book I had to learn was the toughest anyone has to learn. The old school west coast offense had 14-16 words per play. The only way I was going to get on the field my rookie year was by studying, studying, and studying some more. Secondly, by the grace of God, He built me to play fullback - plain and simple. I had talent, but I had more passion and toughness that allowed me to be the productive player I was.

The Saints are technically one of a few teams open for being on HBO's Hark Knocks this year. How would you have felt going about your business with cameras constantly in your face?

It would of been fun. That really shows the fans just how brutal the business of the NFL is. But for a guy like myself that never had a lot of cameras in my face, I would have embraced it and had fun with it.

Coach Payton has said he would prefer to never release someone in front of a camera, regardless of Hark Knocks. How were you informed of your release in 2009?

I would agree with him on that. I was informed via telephone.

In addition to the way you were contacted, there were also issues with the timing of your release regarding things you had going on in your personal life during that exact same time. Care to elaborate?

Sure. I was released the day before my wedding. Call it a coincidence or call it sending me a message. Obviously, a low and dirty way to go about it. I guess [Coach Sean Payton] was upset that I didn't invite him to my wedding, I'll never know, but that's in the past and I have moved on.

Upon your release, and maybe even still, did you hold a grudge against the Saints organization?

No grudge then, and no grudge now. All I will say is that it could of been handled more professionally. At the end of the day, the Saints allowed my dream of playing in the NFL to come true. I am forever grateful for that.

Before we let you go, is there anything else you'd like to share with the Who Dat Nation and football fans everywhere? Maybe something they didn't know about you that would surprise them?

Just that I thank them for their support throughout my years in New Orleans. I know with how I was released, the BountyGate scandal, and my comments thereafter made a lot of them upset but that none of it was ever directed at them. What's in the past, is in the past, and I have moved on. I hope they have moved on too. There are no better fans in the game of football than the WHO DAT NATION!! Love y'all! THANK YOU!

Thank-YOU, Mike, for taking the time out for this interview. I know some of the questions touched on personal matters, and it's awesome that you were so candid. Saints fans: make sure you check out Mike's website here, and follow him on Twitter at @Karney44.