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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; HEAVYWEIGHT ASSIGNMENT Fullbacks Mike Karney and Dan Curran look alike, and both play with a bullish attitude -- and both are trying to adjust the speed and strategy of the NFL Tuesday, August 03, 2004 By Jeff Duncan Staff writer ...

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Old 08-03-2004, 07:24 AM   #1
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Heavyweight Assignment....

Fullbacks Mike Karney and Dan Curran look alike, and both play with a bullish attitude -- and both are trying to adjust the speed and strategy of the NFL
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer
Standing on the sidelines, they're difficult to distinguish -- a pair of iron-pumping, car-pushing, head-cracking fullbacks whose squatty frames are nearly as wide as they are tall.

As the top two fullbacks on the Saints roster, Mike Karney and Dan Curran have something else in common: an overwhelmed feeling.

Four days into their first NFL training camp, both of their buzzed heads are spinning as they vie to replace departed fullback Terrelle Smith, who left a huge void in the Saints backfield in March when he signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent.

When the Saints signed veteran Sam Gash in March, it was assumed that Karney would compete with Gash for the chance to replace Smith. But the club released Gash the day before camp opened.

Gash's release left Curran, Karney and rookie free agent Nate Schurman as the only fullbacks on the 86-man roster. None has played a down in the NFL.

"They're all young, they're all new to our offense," Saints offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy said. "We're just going to bring them along at a pace, make sure they feel comfortable and give them a bunch of work in preseason."

Curran has become a fan favorite because of his celebrity status with the VooDoo of the Arena League, but Karney has the inside track for the starting job.

The fifth-round draft pick from Arizona State -- the same school that produced Smith -- has impressed coaches with his work ethic, powerful blocks and good hands.

"They're feeding them something at ASU," McCarthy said. "He's got the same streak in him that Terelle Smith has. He's a physical guy, and he's very mature."

Like Curran, the 5-foot-11, 267-pound Karney is a workout warrior. He made a name for himself in college by pushing his beat-up Nissan Stanza around campus as part of his lower-body workout regimen.

"Mike really brings a great deal of power as a blocker to our football team," Saints running backs coach Dave Atkins said. "We're throwing everything at him.

"He seems to be picking things up very, very well. I'm just hoping he can get into the games and play solid football for us. He certainly has the potential. With Terrelle Smith gone, Mike is the guy for us."

Karney said he is taking nothing for granted, though.

"(The release of Sam Gash) let me know right away that it was a business," Karney said. "Sam was very instrumental in my development and helped me out a lot. I think they had confidence that I could learn the system and get the job done. I'm just going to go out there and do the best I can."

Hard-nosed Curran won't go down without a fight. He's been counted out for most of his career. He knows the Saints plan to play mostly one-back formations this season and probably will keep one fullback on the roster. Still, if he's a long shot to make the final 53-man roster, he doesn't act like one.

"I'm not even thinking about that," Curran said. "I'm just focusing on taking it one day at a time, learning the offense and trying to make plays when I get the opportunity. They didn't bring me here to be a camp body."

Curran is doing his best to play catch-up. He signed a one-year contract with the Saints last month, five weeks after completing an All-Arena League season with the VooDoo.

Between seasons, Curran returned home to Chelmsford, Mass., where he witnessed the birth of his first child, son Ty Thomas, on July 15.

"It's been a hectic few weeks," Curran said. "These guys have all been here for six weeks, even the rookies. So what they are doing in review, I'm like, 'Oh my God!' My head's spinning. You've just got to do your best to try to keep up. Every time I feel like I get there, they put something new in. You're constantly trying to learn."

Curran said he's comfortable with the speed and physical part of the game, but his biggest adjustment, like Karney, has been deciphering McCarthy's monster playbook and applying it on the field.

"The Arena game is so simple," Curran said. "There's only so much you can do in that game. The play-calling is a lot different. It's a lot more complicated (in the NFL). You've got to know checks and audibles, especially blitz packages, because if you cant pick up the blitz you can't be in there."

While Karney and Curran share similarities on the field, they have contrasting backgrounds off it.

Curran is East Coast, a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan who grew up in Lowell, Mass. Karney is West Coast, born and raised in Kent, Wash. He spends his offseasons in Tempe, Ariz., working out and enjoying the sun or a round of 18 on one of the area's world-class golf courses.

"It's hard to judge those guys right now, it's so early," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "They're both so young, but they're powerful guys with a physical presence. Mike has a lot to learn. It took Terrelle Smith a number of years. Mike has to learn at an accelerated rate because we're going to ask him to play faster."

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