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A Special Appreciation

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Sean Morey (87) grins after blocking a punt in overtime against Dallas -- leading to the game-winning touchdown -- earlier this season.

Appreciate the Pro Bowl more than most? Sean Morey insists no.

Appreciation is part of the equation, though.

In 2003, Morey was arguably the best player on arguably the best special-teams unit in the NFL, for the Philadelphia Eagles. He garnered the most "points" doled out to Philly special-teamers that season. Sports Illustrated named him the top specialist in the league. He was the Eagles' special-teams MVP.  

So Morey and his wife bought a house in Philadelphia. He refinished every floor.

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He yanked down the wallpaper and repainted. He built a deck himself in the backyard.

A few months later, Morey was cut.

Morey can appreciate being named to his first-ever Pro Bowl. But to him, "I think I simply appreciate having a job more than most guys in the league."

Morey has been cut seven times.  He stresses every training camp, and that includes holding his breath in August to see if he would even make the 2008 Cardinals. He was a fringe candidate for the roster. Now he's headed to Hawaii, acknowledged as the best in the NFC at his job.

It helps to have the right people believe in you. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer has counted on Morey since both were doing the same jobs with the Steelers. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who also knew Morey from Pittsburgh, looked like a proud father after Morey's good news.

Whisenhunt said the Cards were "lucky" to have Morey and that he had long played at this level.

"It makes you feel good to see a player as unselfish, as hard working, as team-oriented as Sean Morey has been … I don't want to say it's the underdog story, but it's the guy you always root for," Whisenhunt said. "Maybe we'll start calling him 'Rudy.' "

Football players from Ivy League Brown aren't supposed to carve out an NFL career. Guys who played three seasons in the now-defunct NFL Europe – one as a defensive back, in an attempt to find a different way to stick in the NFL – aren't supposed to remain a pro for eight seasons.

Maybe that's why Morey doles out thanks to everyone. He said he could "rattle off 30 names" of coaches that have helped get him where he is today. He has said many times how he isn't even the best athlete in his family -- a title he gives to wife Cara, who could have forged a spot for herself with the powerful Canadian Olympic women's hockey team but instead followed Sean around on his NFL odyssey.

(His wife will be in the middle of possible drama right around the Pro Bowl too; the couple's third child is due right around the Feb. 8 game.)

It's easy to measure the statistics of a Kurt Warner, an Anquan Boldin, a Larry Fitzgerald, an Adrian Wilson. Their Pro Bowl selections have a measuring stick.

With a special-teamer, with a Morey, a blocked punt for a touchdown – like Morey pulled off in overtime against Dallas – don't come along often. It's more about intangibles.

That's why Morey appreciates now.

He's 32. His receiving talents aren't good enough to be one of the Cards' top four or even top five. A young wide receiver like Early Doucet waits. Rookie Lance Long remains on the practice squad, his potential as a receiver much higher than Morey and his body type making him a potential Morey replacement on special teams.

Morey learned a long time ago the future – in the NFL – is not promised.

"I simply appreciate the fact I get to do the job I love," Morey said. "I am in a really good place here."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 12/17/08.

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