- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – Rookie Bruce Carter believed he was ready to play inside linebacker during his NFL debut.
“I feel like I could have gone out there and helped out,” Carter said.
His coaches didn’t agree. Carter, who was activated off the non-football injury list last week, didn’t play a defensive down against the Eagles. Head coach Jason Garrett indicated that it would have been counterproductive to give Carter snaps at inside linebacker, even late in the game with the lopsided score.
“You just want him to be able to be successful in the situation that he’s going into,” Garrett said. “We felt like going into the game, for a guy who has missed as much time as he has and really only had two padded practices prior to playing in the game, we just felt like it was best just to keep him in a special teams role unless we really, really needed him to go out and play defense. That was the thought there, and we’re hopeful that he’ll get more snaps on defense as we go forward.”
The Cowboys need to get Carter ready right away with Sean Lee’s status in doubt.
“You can’t really make excuses,” Carter said. “You’ve got to go out there and be ready and play football.”
Lee intends to try to play Sunday with a cast protecting his dislocated left wrist, but the Cowboys have to prepare for their leading tackler to miss at least one game. It’s asking too much of veterans Bradie James and Keith Brooking to be on the field every play, especially in passing situations.
Carter has the speed (4.57 40) and coverage ability to contribute. It’s a matter of getting him up to speed in Rob Ryan’s scheme.
“He is a smart guy,” Garrett said. “He does pick it up well in the meeting room and when he’s watching tape. He just needs to have snaps at it, reps at it.
“Really, that’s the case for any player, particularly a young player who’s missed as much time as he has. He’s picking it up well. He’s been productive in practice. We’re hopeful that he can take the next step and get in the game and be productive as well.”