End of 2005 Season Spells Relief for Karney

The game of football can take a great toll on your spirit and mind. New Orleans Saints and former Arizona State fullback Mike Karney knows that all too well. Nevertheless, the rigors of the pigskin paled in comparison to the devastation that Hurricane Katrina handed Karney and his teammates. Challenging probably doesn't come close to describing what the fullback had to endure on and off the field. In this exclusive Devils Digest interview, Karney recalls the trials and tribulations of last year.

"It was a year for me to remember and in some ways forget," said New Orleans Saints fullback Mike Karney. "But probably more to remember. It was a life experience that I'll take with me forever." The second year pro considers himself lucky compared to some of his teammates. "I live 30 minutes west of New Orleans in a town called Destrehan," he commented. "I live in a corporate townhouse, so the furniture wasn't mine. All I really had were my clothes and accessories and those came with me when I left New Orleans. Some guys with houses closer to downtown weren't as lucky as me. Now that the season is over, they'll get to go back there and really assess the damage and see what survived the storm."

The term nomads would probably be a gross understatement in describing the lifestyle the Saints had to endure the last several months. Their first so-called home game was against the New York Giants, in Giants Stadium. The rest of their home contests were played in San Antonio and Baton Rouge. Thus, no one would blame Karney and their teammates for packing it in early in the season. Nevertheless, the fullback pointed out that the reason for their dismal record was never a result of raising the proverbial white flag prematurely.

"We came in with a positive attitude," Karney remarked. "We won the first game of the season against Carolina and we won that game not only for the team, but for the Gulf Coast and the city of New Orleans. After that game, stuff really hit the wall. Playing all our home games on the road…every week we were flying somewhere else. But our guys stuck together. Our chemistry was great. It all came down to fatigue where we just couldn't fight anymore."

"At this level not having a home and traveling all the time is a huge disadvantage," Karney continued. "We knew that we wouldn't have all the amenities like a hot and cold tub, training room…we could never just jump into our cars on game day and drive to the stadium…We played sixteen road games. It was just an uphill battle and everything caught up with us at the end."

While Karney admitted that it's hard to find positives in a 3-13 season, he did take solace in his own performance. "Individually, I had a great season," he claimed. "I can really sit back and feel good about my play. I really improved in all areas, especially in pass protection – recognizing different fronts and picking up blitzes. It was a challenge my rookie year and I definitely got better with it this season. My running backs coach was very proud of my play. In my position, I didn't care what the record was – I went out there every game and gave it my all."

The NFL announced that the team will conduct their spring training camp back in New Orleans, but beyond that the location of pre-season and regular season games is up in the air. "They're planning for the Superdome to be ready in September," said Karney. "Going back to New Orleans for mini-camp is step one. Knowing where we gonna play our pre-season games and regular season games is step two. Over time, that will take care of itself."

One thing that is for certain is that when the Saints do open their mini-camp, they will do so without Head Coach Jim Haslett who will not return to the team. Karney reflected on the only NFL skipper he has known. "I have a lot respect for him," Karney remarked. "He's the coach who drafted me and brought me into the league. But it's not like I haven't been in this situation before with ASU when Coach Snyder was released and Coach Koetter came in. I'm sure Coach Haslett will land somewhere else." It should be noted that this interview was conducted prior the hiring of Sean Peyton as the team's head coach, thus Karney didn't comment on Saints' new man at the helm.

If there's anything that brought a smile to Karney's face in 2005, it was his alma mater and their two dramatic wins at the end of the season. "Oh yeah, those wins definitely made me happy," he admitted. "You always know that records don't matter in the U of A game. It's usually a shootout and I was happy to see that ASU pulled it off in the end. Beating Rutgers in the bowl game was obviously huge for the program. I think that win will do nothing but help for recruiting, and I think the program is going in the right direction. They won two bowl games in a row, and I think they'll compete in a BCS bowl real soon."

Karney mentioned that through out his trying ordeal last season he received support from members of the ASU Athletic Department such as Sun Angel Foundation Director Jason Butikofer, and other members of the Sun Devil family. "I also got to talk to Shaun McDonald and Andrew Walter when I played against their teams," he said. "I know that everyone else was busy with their own season, but I'm sure I'll catch up with them later on."

Karney should have no problem touching base with current and former Sun Devils as he has bought a house in Phoenix, where he plans to relax in until the Saints' mini-camp in April. "I'm not looking to hop on an airplane for a long time," he said laughing. "I'm looking forward to being in beautiful Arizona."

After everything Mike Karney endured, a place he can call home is something he will probably never take for granted…

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