Karney Rides Wave of Success into Playoffs

The New Orleans Saints started out the season as the feel-good story of the NFL. These days, they're an NFC South champion and a Super Bowl contender. Mike Karney hasn't only been enjoying this success, but has also been contributing to it. In this Devils Digest exclusive interview, the Saints fullback talks about this magical 2006 campaign and his first appearance in the playoffs.

"It's crazy down here," said Mike Karney who's preparing for Saturday's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles. "People have a lot to be excited about now that we're in the playoffs. It's a great feeling to have the whole city behind you."

The third-year fullback scored a season-high three touchdowns this season, and all came in a memorable 42-17 win at the Dallas Cowboys. That spectacular game aside, Karney is very satisfied with his performance thus far. "I think I had a productive year for just being a role player and not getting a lot of notoriety," he claimed. "I did get hurt the first game of the year with a calf injury, but I sat out just one game and played a big part of the year with that injured calf that took a long time to heal. Obviously the Dallas game is something I'll never forget. I'm a Pro Bowl alternate, and I found out yesterday that I was selected second-team as a fullback. So people are starting to take notice and I must be doing something right."

It's been a crowded and talented backfield for Karney to block for. From quarterback Drew Brees who was a strong MVP candidate, to the best 1-2 running back punch in the NFL in Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. "I've been able to do a lot more than I did in the past," he commented. "Even though we have two great running backs, my snaps didn't go down. My role increased because I was blocking for two different running backs. Deuce is a 6-1 235 running back that is a pounder in between the tackles and Reggie is all-around type of back that makes a lot of quick cuts. I also caught more balls this season than all my other seasons combined. I was very happy with my role."

The Saints' Monday night 23-3 win against the Atlanta Flacons, the first game in the New Orleans Superdome since hurricane Katrina, was one of the most emotionally charged games ever played in the NFL. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Karney singles out that contest as the point of the season where he and the team realized that they're destined for a special campaign. Then again, a grueling pre-season training camp adequately laid a solid foundation for the team. "It had to be the toughest training camp in the NFL," he recalled. "We were in Jackson, Mississippi where the heat index was 130 degrees, there wasn't much to do there, and we stayed in college dorms four-five weeks. We paid the price early, and we knew that with the new additions like Drew and Reggie we were gonna have a solid year."

New Orleans did edge Philadelphia at home back on week six 27-24 on a last minute field goal. Karney believes that to some extent that past result can help when both teams on Saturday. "It does help that it's an opponent we've seen before, and we know how they play," he remarked. "But the playoffs are a whole new season and the Eagles are hot right now. They won six straight and coming off a big emotional win against the New York Giants. On the bye week we were able to rest up and heal some players. So I guess they have their advantages and we have our advantages. It's gonna be a great game and probably will be a lot like the first game we played them and it will come down to the wire. As long as we can take care of business, do what we have to do on both sides of the ball, we'll be all right."

The 12th man may be an overused cliché for the level of support and contribution the home crowd can have on a team. Nonetheless, Karney doesn't underestimate the impact the fans have had on their squad. "There's no question that when you have loud and supportive fans, like we had all season, it does play a big role in your success at home. It's huge for us to host the first playoff game at home."

In exclusively playing fullback, it could have been hard for a player like Mike Karney to break into the NFL at a position that many teams seldom use. Not only has the ex-Sun Devil flourished with the Saints, but now he's taking his dream of playing professionally to a whole new level – being part of a playoff team for the first time. "They're guys that play their whole career without getting to the playoffs," he said. "It's so hard to win at this level. For us to be just two games away from the Super Bowl it is a dream because that game is the ultimate. It's just all beyond words for me. It really is a dream come true."

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