Even though Ka'Deem Carey's NFL career hasn't panned out quite the way he thought it would, he insists nothing that's happened in his four years as a professional has surprised him.
(Note: I wrote a story about Carey's historic 2012 performance against Colorado here.)
Arguably the greatest running back to ever come out of Southern Arizona, the Canyon del Oro product became an All-American at Arizona and the school's all-time leading rusher, which helped him to be selected in the fourth round (117th overall) by the Chicago Bears.
Carey entered the fray in Chicago with a Pro Bowler already ahead of him in Matt Forte, and after a bad 2014 season, both the coach (Marc Trestman) and general manager (Phil Emery) who drafted him were fired. In the ensuing years, the duo of new coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace have drafted three different running backs in Jeremy Langford, Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, leaving limited touches available for Carey.
Carey started playing special teams in his second season and was coming into his own, but suffered a wrist injury in August and after surgery, the Bears and Carey reached an injury settlement and Carey was cut. So in three seasons in Chicago, Carey finished with 443 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 36 games.
Now he's back in Tucson, rehabbing at Arizona. Once he's healthy, he'll pursue his next NFL opportunity. It just won't be in Chicago, he said.
Carey spoke with the Star this week for stories about his historic game in 2012 against Colorado, as well as the rise of his brother Elijah Carey, who is starring as a CDO running back now, too. Here's some of that conversation that didn't make it into those stories.
On not playing football right now: "It’s killing me, of course. Just not being on that field, going every Sunday. It’s really just watching, it’s tough. But I gotta take care of business, do what I can do physically and mentally."
On his time in Chicago coming to an end: "It just came down to a man. I went down at the wrong time. It was bad timing. But we have a great relationship. They'll call me in three weeks when I’m healthy so they can pick me back up again, but I’m ready for bigger fish in the ocean, to go see what other teams got with me running the ball or playing special teams. I know I can do that. I’m pretty excited to go test the waters right now in free agency but we split good when I talked to the Chicago Bears. Ryan Pace, he’s a great guy. That (Chicago) was my home, it was my home that took me in from college and raised me as a young man. I love Chicago, props to them."
On how much he's grown since college: "Man, I turned into a man. That’s what really happened. I went down to Chicago as a young man and didn’t know what the world was about, I had my first kid. I had just got married and I was just drafted and excited. Now after three years, going on four, in the league, I’m more settled, more mature, more ready for the world. Ready to do bigger things off the field with real estate, on the field. I’m even just ready to plant my feet and make a name for myself like I did at the U of A."
On if anything about the NFL surprised him: "No nothing. Nothing really surprised me. I expected all of this stuff. Just knowing the playbook was a big thing people underestimate because as a rookie you go into games and everything is fast just because you gotta learn the playbook. And the faster you learn that playbook, the faster things slow down.
"I would say after these three years, I got the playbook down probably after my rookie year and I was ready to play ball after that. My sophomore year, I had to really play special teams, and had to make a name on special teams because I had Forte waiting in front of me. But I know that I’m talented enough to take on any battle, any challenge in the league and I’ve done that."
On the next step and playing special teams: "I’m very satisfied and happy with what I became on special teams as a player. Now it’s like, I’m ready for running back. I’m just thrilled. We’re talking to our agent, waiting out this next option, waiting to get healed and counting down these weeks."
On this year's Arizona team: "They got spark, they got funk. I like it. They got energy. Any team that’s going to out there and play with some energy has a good chance of winning each game."