New Orleans Saints Kicker John Carney
Legends Microsoft Teams Video Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Do you want to start us off by talking about all the work you've been doing with the Carney Coaching Clinic and what you guys have been doing there as of late?
"Sure. First, hello, Who Dat Nation. All my friends out of New Orleans. Miss you guys and gals. So Carney Training Facility here in Carlsbad, California, Carney Coaching. We had a busy spring, winter, spring getting a lot of college guys ready for pro days, combines, tryouts, so on and so forth. One of our guys was Tyler Bass drafted by the Buffalo Bills. I think he's got a good shot of making that team. Tommy Townsend was here. That dude did a very good job. I know Tommy and his brother, Johnny. Tommy is presently signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and he'll have a good opportunity there going against a former Notre Dame punter Tyler Newsome. So they're gonna have a good battle. Just recently, last week we had the Launching Pad, the eighth annual Launching Pad. What the launching Pad is a one week intense training session for NFL specialists only to prep themselves mentally and physically for training camp and the season. Professional athletes, kickers and punters, NFL players in a normal, regular offseason, which we know we're not in right now, in July, knowing that it's the last opportunity for them to go on family vacations, take care of honeydews around the house, go to the DMV, get that last vacation in with the family and friends, they get a little bit off their cycle, their system, their routine, as far as training is concerned and they can end up at training camp, not quite tuned in mentally and physically the way they would like to be. So this Launching Pad week, I created this eight years ago, it's intentionally about a week and a half to two weeks out prior to training camp for the NFL guys that come in and really fine tune themselves, physically and mentally, learned from me. We gave presentations this past week, presentations on longevity. I know a couple of things about longevity and we had a nutrition presentation. We also had a presentation on game time routine and pregame routine. So, so important that a player's routine, especially a kicker and punter, they're doing the right things in pregame to prepare them for the game, their understanding of the conditions and the challenges of that field and stadium. And then during the game, what are they doing to keep themselves mentally and physically on point and not getting themselves emotionally pulled into the game where they're following the ebb and flow of the game, win or lose, and they lose their own even keel focus on their swing thoughts and their method of their madness to get the job done. So we talked about a game time routine as well. (We) had some great guys in here, including one that you will probably see twice this year, Younghoe Koo, good friend who's trained with us a bunch. He's kicking with the Atlanta Falcons. You probably remember all those onsite kicks the hit against the Aaints last year, a great kid, great, talented young kicker. He was in this week as well with Ty Long, punter who also kicked field goals amazingly well for the L.A. Chargers last year, another good friend who's been with us a long time. Matt Darr, who's been in and out of the league as a great punter, he's on a lot of short lists and a host of other guys as well last week. So Launching Pad (is) in the books and now we're preparing for the Specialist Preseason Combine. This will be the fourth year, we've run the Specialist Preseason Combine. I created this for the free agent specialists that are on the short list of many NFL teams. Many of these guys have NFL experience or they're right there on the edge of making a team and they're on the short list of teams around the country and they need an opportunity to get in front of scouts and get in front of personnel people right before the season starts. So all 32 NFL teams have an updated list and a correct list of what these specialists look like in August going into the season. It breaks my heart when I see a team that has a need for a kicker or punter or long snapper because their starter gets hurt or is underperforming and I see the guys that they call up and fly in for that workout and they're the wrong guys. They're just out of shape, or they're not punting or kicking or snapping well, or there's somebody better that they could have brought in and they missed on it. So I want to make sure these NFL teams have their list and the correct players and, for me personally, when I'm training these guys that come through Carlsbad that come through Carney Training Facility that I see during the course of the year, I want to make sure our guys have an opportunity again, to get in front of those personnel directors and show them, hey, it's time they're ready to go and they should be on that list as things get started for the season. Those are our big deals right now. We have some college kids here that are still floating around training, high school kids, high school football here in California was just postponed to the winter. We have a lot of high school kids that are available now for lessons. We're doing lessons and clinics with those guys. It gives them an opportunity, another three, four months to tune in their game and then to improve and of course the challenge for them is the upperclassmen. How can I get some exposure with the colleges when I'm not having a season this fall? We're going to address that this fall and try to get these kids connected with some colleges, even though they're not having a season, but get some good film out to those colleges and start that dialogue with those special teams coaches so these kids can feel like they can get recruited, even though they're not having a season this fall."
With all of the things that you've been doing and trying to do, just being in California, they're one of the states that have had harsher lockdowns. How have you been able to keep doing what you're doing and helping players while also keeping them and keeping you and your staff safe?
"That is a great question. We certainly are challenged out here, thanks to our Governor. I'll leave it at that. I'll be polite, but the first lockdown was very challenging because they closed down all the fields. So I helped my clients that really was necessary for them to continue their training, college and pro guys. We kind of did some training covertly here at the training facility, just doors closed, kept the numbers very low in the gym, only four at a time, cleaned everything and kept taking temperature and just try to be very smart and safe for those guys. But, it's really essential for them to continue their training and so we allowed that to happen in a very responsible way. For fields at first locked down, guys were just going out in twos and, like skateboarding, they were climbing fences and climbing under fences and just trying to find some field space to do their thing, kick, punt, snap. Second time around here, the fields are still public fields available that we can use. The high school fields still are not renting, but the public fields have been pretty good as far as giving us an opportunity to get on the field, which has been great for our guys. We can do it in a healthy and safe environment and we're still within the rules and the code of the cities. As far as gyms are concerned, we're keeping our gym open the second time around. I think we have a good pattern here. People have to sign up for their space to come into the gym. Again, we're following protocols with cleaning and temperature taking and social distancing as best we can. Many of the gyms in my complex, we have a CrossFit gym next to me. There's a gymnastics studio just to our right, and there's some dance studios. Most of the studios here, at least in gyms, in California, not the big, big box gyms, but the smaller mom and pops shops are staying open. They're doing their best to be very safe and responsible, but they're going to stay open this time. And so far, we haven't had any complaints or notices to this point."
You mentioned kind of getting the guys ready for pro days and the combine, how much of a different challenge was that knowing that some of the areas weren't able to have pro days and just teams weren't able to bring (in) guys for workouts, how much of a challenge is that, or what did that do to the process?
"I think it's a huge challenge and it's unfortunate for a lot of the guys coming out of school this year. Most of our guys that came here through the spring got in their pro day, right before they shut things down, a few missed it, which was very unfortunate. They send some film in, but it's just not the same to send some film in versus an in-person workout. I had a free agent, a kicker on a flight to Indianapolis for a kicking workout. He was halfway there, yet he had a layover halfway there and during the layover the NFL contacted him and said, we just shut everything down today and we're flying you back home to San Diego. So that was really unfortunate. He was less than 24 hours away from working out for a team and possibly getting signed. So that was very unfortunate. I had a few other guys who had been talking with and dialoguing with teams that looked like a workout was going to happen and, of course, that was short circuited. So very challenging. I think teams are very, they're in a pickle because they didn't get to not only train their own personnel and get a good look at the rookies and creations that they've signed up to this point and kind of get them into the mix and see what they look like and see how they fit. But, there's a number of guys that just haven't been evaluated, whether they're guys that are just coming out of college or a free agent that's been around a couple years, maybe it's someone who's coming off a surgery and they seem to be 100 percent, but they haven't had an opportunity to be evaluated in person. It's going to be really tough for these personnel departments to get a real good grip on who's out there and what kind of shape they're in and are they gonna fit into our system? And that's again, why I created this Specialist Preseason Combine for, at least, teams to have an opportunity to look at the specialists that are available, but there's many positions across the board that teams have no idea what these guys look like. I don't know once training camp starts, if they're going to have a cycle of bringing in players, every other day is a new group of players working out so the personnel department can really feel like they're catching up on their potential ready list, or if they're even going to allow that because of the risk of bringing in COVID to the team and organization. So it's going to be very interesting to see how that plays out and how teams get that information on those free agents and those potential players that they want to see or bring in. It's going to be very interesting to see how they collect that information safely."
We don't know the NFL's guidelines are going to be as far as fans in the stands and all that, but how different mentally is that for kicker to line up if they have to kick a game winning kick in an empty stadium, how different would that be? And what kind of advice would you give a kick of going through having to go through that?
"It's going to be bizarre. We talked about it. Soccer's been doing it now for a while over in Europe with no fans and baseball is just starting. I know for football, the crowd, the presence of the crowd, the crowd noise, whether they're for you or against you, it's a great adrenaline booster and I think players are going to miss and have a lack of that adrenaline boost, because again, there's no response from the crowd. Someone's going to score a touchdown and you're going to hear your own players. Hey, great job, Rod, excellent catch. You'll hear stuff on the sideline, and as a player, you're going to hear a whole host of things from coaches, you may even hear referees in a conversation behind you that normally you wouldn't hear in a stadium environment where the stadium has capacity and it's full of fans. It's going to be very bizarre. It's going to feel stale. It's going to feel very vanilla, neutral, much like a scrimmage. I think it's going to be very odd for many of the players. It's going to take a while to get used to that. Walking into a full stadium as a professional athlete, seeing, hearing, feeling the fan presence. Again, it's a big adrenaline rush and it clicks your mind and your soul into it's ready time. It's game time. Now I'm trusting my preparation and let's get it done day, and you're not going to have that trigger anymore. It's going to be bizarre. I think you're going to see some lack luster play for a while until players can adjust to that, but I do believe you'll see some lackluster play because that trigger of the response and the environment of a full stadium will not be there."
You talked about longevity earlier and a couple of your teammates is still hanging around, but Drew Brees just turned 41. Is there an example from when you were playing with him for that short time from what you've seen, I guess from just watching him play, is there something that he does from your perspective that is a big reason as to why he's still hanging around and is playing at a high caliber?
"Absolutely. I did play with Drew twice, actually 2006 and 2009. I knew Drew very well when he first came to the Chargers. I got to see him a lot here in the offseason, still very involved and stuff together. We actually ran a golf tournament together and love the guy. Amazing professional on and off the field, heartbroken that people jumped on him and took him out of context this offseason. I support Drew 100 percent, amazing professional and a man of very strong man of character. I've never experienced or been a part (of) or seen, and we'll just keep it in football terms, a professional football player, that has been in the league for 10 or more years, that doesn't have an amazing work ethic, an amazing system of training on and off the field, detailing his training on and off the field. Very, very conscientious about his health, what he does high risk versus low risk activities and always, always scratching the surface. How can I get better? That's Drew Brees in a nutshell, that's Jerry Rice in a nutshell, that was Junior Seau in a nutshell, guys who lasted a long time. They have a system, they have a work ethic and they're always looking to get better. They studied the game, they'd become students of the game, they become a master of their craft, but it never stops. That's Drew. Drew doesn't get outworked. He doesn't get out studied. He's working hand in hand with offensive coordinators, the Head Coach, Sean Payton. Tom Brady, same mold. That's why these guys are so good and continue to put up numbers. The longevity calculation is when you're young, you survive in a league because of your physical traits. The middle of your career, physically, you still have the testosterone, the strength, the speed, the quickness, but now you're gaining experience and wisdom and your later years, and Drew's 41 so that's really young. I finished at 46, so he's still a young puppy, but you really, really depend on that wisdom and experience. As you get older, your physical attributes start to decline a little bit, and you start making up for that with better preparation, better anticipation, you start focusing on recovery, I shouldn't say more than training, but recovery becomes a very, very important topic because your training needs to adjust because your recovery is a little bit slower. So recovery becomes a very, very, very big issue, but that wisdom goes a long, long way. That's why you see guys, again, like a Drew Brees who can still play at extremely high level. He's a smarter, wiser guy now than he was six, seven, eight, 10 years ago. Now, could you throw the ball a little bit faster, a little bit farther 10 years ago, probably, but he can anticipate and understand and outsmart the defense a heck of a lot better now than he could back then. So it all balances out, and it's really special to watch someone of his caliber continue to work the system and what I mean (by) work the system on the field and the game of football to understand the nuances of it and to continue to stay a step ahead of the defense."
With training camp gearing up, obviously it's going to look a little different for the players this year, but do you personally have a favorite memory from training camp during your career?
"I do have a few. I was spoiled out here in San Diego for a long time. We had a training camp at UCSD, University of California, San Diego on the cliffs of La Jolla, overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a cool breeze every day and beautiful grass that looked just like the grass at the Torrey Pines a golf course which was right down the road. So totally spoiled. Then I was transported to the New Orleans Saints at Nicholls State. We had training camp there for a couple of years and this is kind of a fun memory, but it was crazy hot, crazy humid as you know. The fields backed up to swamp and sugar cane. I thought I was in the movie Waterboy. We did pull an alligator off the practice field prior to a practice. Some Cajun guy showed up in a truck and got the Gator and taped him up with duct tape. It was about a seven foot Gator. I asked the guy what he was going to do with the Gator. He just turned at me like I was an idiot and said, 'I'm taking him home to eat him.' Okay, of course you are. Later in that same training camp, I woke up from my afternoon nap, ready for the second practice hearing a really, really loud noise coming from the practice field. I couldn't see what it was, but it sounded like it was an Indianapolis race car, just a really loud noise. I got over there to find out that there was a swamp air boat going back and forth on the grass stadium field to dry the grass after an afternoon shower. I couldn't believe it. I said, this is definitely out of the Waterboy, but those are some of my fond memories of first coming to the Saints. Of course, having training camp in Old Metairie is a lot more comfortable. Having training camp at Millsaps was really tough when Sean Payne first came in and really wanted to see what we were made of. He took us out to Millsaps in Mississippi, and that was tough, but that was the foundation of a great team. We had that Cinderella season in 2006 and we're one game away from making it to the Super Bowl, we just ran into a tough Chicago Bear team. That was the foundation of the team that ended up going to the Super Bowl in 2009. So it all started there at Millsaps in Mississippi with Sean Payton. So those are some of my fond memories of training camp. Guys, the players, I think as tough as training camp can be, we really look forward to it. The offseason, all the training, all the preparation and then finally, finally you get to training camp and it's real football, helmets, shoulder pads, we're ready to go. Now the clock is ticking. We have a game in a few weeks and it's very, very exciting and everybody's 0-0, everybody's a Super Bowl contender going into August. It's very exciting for everybody."
Kind of piggybacking off that, kind of fast forwarding to the current season, with your knowledge, especially with your camps and whatnot of all the possible kickers in the NFL, is there a camp kicking battle you're looking forward to watching and kind of seeing who wins that starting spot?
"Well, one of our good friends and he's been training with us for a number of years from college and now into the pros, Ramiz Ahmed, signed with the Chicago Bears. We know of course Chicago has some of our former New Orleans Saints management, Ryan Pace and a few others up there. He'll be competing against Eddy Piñeiro who played there last year and started off the season real hot. Ramiz will be competing with Eddy, I'm really excited about watching that battle. There's another great battle at the Colts. Chase McLaughlin will be competing with a young kicker out of Georgia, Rodrigo (Blankenship) I think his name is, he's the one that where's the glasses. That's going to be a really good battle. Chase really had some very high moments last year filling in as a rookie for several teams. Started out at Buffalo and then ended up with the Niners and then he was at the Chargers and ended up with the Colts, he did a pretty solid job. Looking forward to that. There's some good battles out there. There's a few more that that will arise. Our friend up at the Giants, I'm blanking on his name right now. Aldrick Rosas. (He) crashed his car and ran into some offseason trouble there. So he's got to clean that up and get back to business with the Giants. If the giants aren't happy with that, they'll bring in some kickers. That could be a competition. Then of course the New England Patriots drafted a kicker and I'll be interested to see, I didn't have that kicker kind of on my chart so I'm gonna be curious to see how that goes in New England to see if he can hold that job down as a rookie, or if Coach Belichick makes a decision to bring in some competition for him."
You're one of the few people that played with the Saints before all of the glory. Then you got a taste of that, too. How has your perception of them changed from the time you entered the league, the time you played for them the first time and then the time you came back?
"Well, I would put a lot of credit to Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Tom Benson. They made a decision collectively in 2006 that they were going to change the culture of football and the franchise starting in 2006 and they really did. That's not an easy thing to do. They put some money behind it, they put some players behind it, they took some risks. They went out and grabbed Drew Brees, who had his shoulder repaired and nobody knew what that shoulder was going to look like on the field. He hadn't thrown a pass when they signed him. Hadn't thrown a pass since the surgery. That was a big risk, obviously that paid off really well. They just collectively did a phenomenal job of putting down a blueprint that was very successful. I know talking with Mickey Loomis a year ago, franchises from all professional sports, baseball, basketball and football have contacted Mickey Loomis. How did you guys change the culture? How did you turn around a franchise that for so many years was up and down, hot and cold, almost good, almost making it, not making it and turning it around and making it a location that professional athletes, football players wanted to come to? In the past. You said New Orleans Saints and it's kind of like saying, I don't even want to bring out other names of other teams, but there are teams that players would love to play for, are excited to have an opportunity to get a phone call from the GM. Hey, would you be interested in playing for us? Then there's some franchises that (you're) like, well, if there's another opportunity, I'd rather go somewhere else. Now there's players knocking, banging on the door at the Saints. I want to play for the Saints. I want to be a part of the New Orleans Saints organization and that was an amazing transformation by those three gentlemen to really turn this thing around. Like you said, I had an opportunity to play with the team prior to 2006 and post 2006 and (it's) amazing, amazing the changes they made and the environment, the optimism, the excitement and the challenges now that team now possesses. It's wonderful to be a part of it and to see it from the inside out."
"Thanks guys so much, I appreciate touching base with all of you guys and gals in New Orleans. Hope to see you guys this season. Hope we have a phenomenal season. Hope this thing gets kicked off and we have some real football. It's going to be different, but hopefully it will be exciting and we'll get back to business in the NFL. So God bless all you guys and thank you for your time."