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Recent posts by Eric Edholm

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Posted Oct. 20, 2011 @ 2:34 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

Sundays are the worst. Mike Karney hates the  fact that he watches NFL games hoping that someone gets hurt. Fullbacks specifically. This is what he has been reduced to.

The fact that fewer pro teams than ever utilize a true, in-line fullback in this age of spread passing attacks means he's hoping one of about eight or 10 men around the NFL — those of a dying breed who see only 20-30 snaps per game, anyway — get hurt so that he can get a shot to play again.

"You only can go off what your agent is telling you, and that's, 'We're waiting for an injury,' " Karney says by phone from his home in Arizona.

"I hate to say that. But that's the business. That's my reality right now."

The two-time Pro Bowl alternate is a free agent waiting for a phone call, a chance to re-enter the NFL. He was a starter for each of his seven pro seasons but became obsolete this season in St. Louis when the Rams hired coordinator Josh McDaniels, who doesn't use a true fullback. Karney, 30, was released just prior to the lockout and has been jobless since.

The Seahawks needed a fullback prior to their first preseason game and flew Karney up for a workout. It appeared to be a perfect match: The Seahawks needed a lead blocker, Karney fit the system well and he grew up in Kent, Wash., less than 20 miles south of Qwest Field.

The workout went well, but the Seahawks said they were going to wait before signing him. They had a few young H-backs and tight ends they wanted to try at fullback first. Karney was sent home and told to be on ready alert.

"You say to yourself, 'OK, you know what? It's my first time being in this situation; it's all good,' " Karney said. " 'Be positive. Don't get frustrated.' "

Three weeks later, right before the team's final preseason game, the call came in: Fly back up to Seattle. It's time to go to work. The young blockers hadn't worked out, and it appeared Karney would get his chance to sign right away.

But Karney got off the plane, only to see a text message from his agent saying that the Seahawks wanted him to work out again. This was not the news he wanted to hear, and he knew it right away.

"When you hear they have all these plans for you, that they're going to get you ready for Week One, and then you land in Seattle and you get (that) text," he said. "Being around in the business long enough, you know, 'OK, I know this is not happening now.' "

It did not.

A source told PFW that Seahawks GM John Schneider and the staff wanted to sign Karney, but head coach Pete Carroll was still married to FB Michael Robinson, one of the team's leading special-teamers. Karney was sent home without a contract.

"The first visit to Seattle was a pat on the back," Karney said. "The second one was a punch in the gut."
It would be the first of his eight pro seasons in which Karney would be starting the season at home and not on an NFL roster.

The same was true for veteran DE Alex Brown, 32, who has 45½ sacks and 15 forced fumbles in nine seasons with the Bears and Saints. After being one of the final cuts in training camp this year by the Saints, Brown was not signed by another NFL team and remains a free agent. The adjustment has been strange.

"It's weird," Brown said. "Working out three months prior to training camp, well, you know training camp is coming. Working out now, not knowing something is going to come, it's just different. You have to really focus in, to be honest. You could very well not get that call. That's the bottom line."

Brown and Karney are just two of hundreds of players in the same situation. Six weeks in, more than a third of the way through the regular season, the reality is that they might have only a few more months to live the dream before it's over.

"If you're out of the league for a year, you're close to being doomed," veteran agent Eric Metz said.

To read the rest of this story, which gives you an inside look at what it's like to play the waiting game with your football future in the balance, order a copy of the current issue of Pro Football Weekly. In the latest edition of PFW you will also find an in-depth feature on the Chargers getting off to a good start for the first time under Norv Turner. What are the three reasons why they are a Super Bowl contender? What are the three reasons why they are a pretender? Also, don't miss fantasy football expert William Del Pilar's first-half All-Fantasy team.

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