Daily Archives: May 10, 2012
Wednesday morning I had the pleasure to welcome former New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams fullback Mike Karney on my radio show The Wake up Call on www.sportstownchicago.com and we discussed a wide range of topics related to the current state of the National Football League.
As a former member of the Saints and having been coached by Sean Payton I had to ask him what he thought about the yearlong suspension of the coach in charge during the alleged bounty scandal where defensive players were paid for injuring opposing players.
Mike understood the way Roger Goodell has tackled the issue of player safety during his tenure as commissioner, so although he said he didn’t agree or disagree, he said it was something Goodell was going to make an example out of Payton and “the punishment fit the crime.”
Once the issue of player safety and head injuries was raised during the player safety discussion I asked him his thoughts on the passing of Junior Seau, and if he had experienced any debilitating concussions similar to what Junior had experienced during his 20-year NFL career.
Playing the fullback position Karney said his position has the most undocumented cases of concussions, yet he is well and feeling healthy, despite experiencing one major concussion. However, he did reveal to me that he had a number of “starry moments,” or sub-concussions.
Having experienced a league wide growth in concussions with players having to miss extended action on the gridiron and careers shortened as a result of the concussions that happen during every NFL game I asked Mike if the NFL can do anything to change this disturbing trend.
What he said will no doubt give alarm to some, and in the same vein give NFL fans a sigh of relief that enjoy the violent sport and fear it is becoming soft or too closely resembles a backyard flag football game.
Mike said the first thing the NFL needs to do is get the best technology to provide the advanced helmets from Riddell to give added protection to the brain and temple region. He said the NFL needs to mandate the perfect helmet and hope for the best. Outside trying to eliminate the kickoff, he doesn’t know if there is anything else to do because they are “modern day gladiators.”
As the conversation went deeper into the issue of concussions I had to ask if he would want his son to grow up to become a “modern day gladiator” and would want his son to play football.
Mike wrestled with the question and after contemplating the question he said he would first like to coach the finer points of the game and instruct him on how to hit and tackle properly because the game offers a great deal of lessons and principles that can be applied to one’s life. Upon further reflection he did say he may hold his son(s) out til 15 or 16 years of age.
He was not as concerned about his child suffering a concussion at a young age, but rather worries about them suffering an injury as a result of poor technique because the speed of the game isn’t to the point where a violent collision will likely result in a concussion.
Moving to the lighter side of the game and away from player safety and concussions I asked Mike about his favorite memory on the gridiron.
The first moment that came to his mind was his three touchdown game in Dallas against America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, a rare feat indeed for an NFL fullback. Off the gridiron, Mike said the memories in the locker room and his time with his teammates are what stood out from his seven-year NFL career.
Piggybacking on his favorite NFL moments, I asked him about his draft day experience as he was a fifth round draft pick out of Arizona State. He felt fortunate to be drafted by an “old school” coach in Jim Haslett and being drafted by a team that ran a West Coast offense because of the dwindling role the fullback plays in the NFL.
He would reiterate the affirmation he experienced as a draftee and emphasized he had to keep working and “continue to be the best he could possibly be.”
He was the best he possibly could be for two teams over seven years, but he said the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has dictated that veterans are being forced into early retirement, and it’s a “new game” with a heavy emphasis on passing with only a few teams employing a fullback.
I couldn’t let Mike go without asking him about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2006 as a member of the Saints. He felt as if he was in a movie, describing the drive out of town and witnessing the big road out west and houses being boarded up, and felt as if he was watching “The Day after Tomorrow” as he witnessed the devastation and how things get worse and worse.
Playing a road game every week took its toll on the team even though he had a successful season personally. The constant moving of practice fields and locker rooms proved to be very challenging but the team made the most of a trying year.
I wrapped up the 30-minute interview asking him his thoughts on the bounty program and if every team in the NFL employs or if The Saints were the only teams to use such a rogue strategy.
He said, “I think it goes on in every locker room, but not to the level and intensity in New Orleans where everybody knew and participated under the control of ousted defensive coordinator Greg Williams.”
Furthermore, he added there is no room for that in the game where intent to injure, in any era of the game, and the children and fans watching the game shouldn’t be subjected to that side of the game and didn’t want the youth to be tainted by these revelations.
A 10-minute segment with the former fullback turned into a 30-minute interview because Mike was incredibly candid, thoughtful, and concise with his answers that the question and answer session kept moving the chains as we churned out first down after first down.
To hear the entire interview with Mike on “The Wake up Call” with Patrick Schmidt on www.sportstownchicago.com you can click here. For more from Mike you can tune in next Wednesday where he will join the show again to drop more knowledge and insight from a man who has seen the best and the worst that the NFL has to offer.
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Patrick is a diehard sports fan and former football player from Chicago, the greatest city in the world. The home of deep dish pizza, the greatest skyline in the world, and the best sports fans in America. Patrick has been a fan of the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks from birth and is an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake Up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here