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Blackburn Is Frustrated But Accepts Any Role:

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From UticaOD.com

When you’re an undrafted rookie free agent, earning an NFL roster spot and keeping it isn’t easy. New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn calls it a “year-by-year thing.”

He should know.

Blackburn, who was working construction with a cousin when the Giants called on him weeks after the 2005 NFL Draft, has been seizing one opportunity after another for the last five years.

“That’s a tough road to travel, I’ll tell you that,” said Blackburn, Friday night’s guest of honor at the annual Central New York Touchdown Club banquet at The Beeches. “It takes a lot of luck, a lot of intelligence, a lot more than just football.”

Whatever it has taken, Blackburn has made a nice living as a special teams standout who two years ago helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII and who last year played in all 16 regular-season games, nine of them as a starting linebacker.

Not bad, considering there were once doubts he would ever make it to the NFL.

“I thought I was going to be a late-round draft pick,” Blackburn said. “I kept working out. It’s not like I ever lost confidence in my abilities. I was just feeling like I was never going to get a shot in the NFL.”

Once the rookie free agent out of Akron made the Giants’ punt team, though, Blackburn figured he would be around for at least a year or two.

Even though he was “definitely behind” as a rookie free agent signed in late June, Blackburn made the Giants’ 53-man roster out of training camp and later made two late-season starts, replacing injured linebackers Carlos Emmons and Antonio Pierce and returning an interception 31 yards for a touchdown against the Washington Redskins.

He has been filling in here and there, starting – and playing well – when called upon, and starring on special teams ever since.

“Now, it’s no big deal,” Blackburn said of a role he doesn’t expect to change this season with the return of veteran middle linebacker Pierce and the acquisition of weak-side linebacker Michael Boley. “I feel completely comfortable at any position. I always prepare myself like I’m going to start every game, you have to. That’s all you get in the NFL sometimes, one shot. If you don’t take advantage of it, they’ll find somebody else who will.”

Although he feels he could be an everyday starter and he admits not starting at linebacker can get “a little frustrating,” Blackburn is happy doing what he’s done for the Giants.

“I’ll do this all my life if I have to,” he said. “I’ll accept it.”

Playing on special teams has been his specialty from the start of his NFL career. Blackburn has led the Giants in special teams tackles each of his first four seasons, finishing with a career-high 22 as a rookie and 18 last year, when he was named a first alternate to the NFC Pro Bowl team.

“I love special teams. I like the contact,” he said. “The field is so spread out, and everybody has to do his job. It’s more a heart or a will or an effort play, and that’s what I pride myself in. It’s not about how fast I am.”

Most satisfying, so far, for Blackburn was a Super Bowl season that ended with a stunning 17-14 victory over an unbeaten New England team on the brink of 19-and-0 perfection.

The Giants had lost to the Patriots in the regular-season finale, pushing them to the limit before losing 38-35. But they went on the road in the playoffs and beat Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay.

“We knew what we were getting with New England,” said Blackburn. “We knew they weren’t unbeatable. They were the same team, we knew what we had, and it was a battle for the ages. …

“No one gave us a chance. (Tampa Bay’s) Ronde Barber said we were the worst playoff team ever. Dallas had crushed us twice. … The whole year, we took our knocks. We had the worst coach in the league at one point in the season. We had the worst quarterback in the league at one point.

“But we knew who we were, and we did the best we could with it.”

After winning it all in 2007, Blackburn and the Giants “had a great thing going” again last season, but wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg and their season ended with a playoff loss to Philadelphia.

“Just the dynamics of our offense were different,” said Blackburn, “and unfortunately, we kind of fell apart at the end.”

He still calls Burress “a great teammate,” though.

“He always gave everything he had on game day. He was a great player and a great teammate. You can’t take back what happened. You just have to move on.”


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