NFC North: Jonathan Ogden
Carter, 47, grew up in Troy, which is three hours away from Canton, home of the Hall of Fame, where Carter was honored this weekend. He also starred at Ohio State in Columbus before his stellar 16-year NFL career.
On Saturday, Carter -- emotional and reflective -- came full circle, returning to the Buckeye State as a member of the 2013 Hall of Fame class. He didn’t prepare notes for his speech. Carter spoke strictly from the heart in front of many of his fellow Ohioans and football peers.
“We have the greatest Hall of all the Halls,” Carter said emphatically. “And to be able to join these men, on this stage, in football heaven is the greatest day of my life.”
Carter’s journey wasn’t easy. He signed with an agent and lost his eligibility his senior year at Ohio State. Carter said his only football-related regret was leaving school early and being forced to enter the supplemental draft.
“To all the Buckeye fans, from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely apologize,” Carter said.
Carter also battled drug and alcohol problems that nearly derailed his career. Carter described Sept. 19, 1990, as a landmark date in his life. That’s when he was asked in rehab to change his life. He’s been clean ever since.
On the field, Carter’s first NFL catch was a touchdown reception in 1987 against the St. Louis Rams. He had just five catches his rookie year with the Philadelphia Eagles, which included two touchdowns. Former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan later coined the famous phrase that “All he does is catch touchdown passes.” That stuck with Carter the rest of his career. He finished with 131 career touchdowns, which ranks eighth all time.
In Minnesota, Carter’s career flourished. That’s where he made eight straight Pro Bowls, had two seasons of 122 receptions, and five straight seasons of double-digit touchdowns. It’s also where Carter got his life together.
Carter also can make a strong case for having the best hands in NFL history. His highlight tape displays some of the most difficult and spectacular catches ever seen. Those strong hands made Carter fourth on the all-time reception list with 1,101.
“When he came in from Philadelphia, we knew he was a great ballplayer and we knew he could play,” former Vikings teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Chris Doleman said. “We wanted to just give him a clean slate to work from and let him do what he do. He’s never done anything but honored the Vikings and the Vikings colors.”
Consider Carter’s enshrinement speech, which was about 16 minutes long, one final touchdown reception. He was the final speaker in the 2013 Hall of Fame class, and Carter had several tough acts to follow. Jonathan Ogden and Curley Culp were classy. Dave Robinson and Larry Allen were funny. Bill Parcells and Warren Sapp, as expected, were straight shooters.
But Carter was able to put a bow on this entire Hall of Fame. He began by playing to the hometown crowd with a chant of “O-H-I-O.” Then he got more personal.
Carter’s son, Duron, introduced him. Carter also made sure to thank his mother, Joyce, and asked her to stand up in front of a national audience.
“Mama, I got to tell you, I didn’t have to wait to get a call from the Hall for them to tell me I was a Hall of Famer -- you’ve been telling me that since I was little,” Carter said. “You told me everything that’s ever happened in my life that’s happened. But Mom, I got to tell you. I have to apologize. I’m so sorry for the bumpy flight and the bumpy ride.
“But I got to tell you, Mama, it’s a smooth landing.”
Carter’s résumé is still growing. He is the author of a new book and an insightful NFL analyst at ESPN.
After five years as a finalist who came up just short, Carter can add one more deserving label on a historic night in Canton: Hall of Famer.
“Buckeye born and bred,” Carter said in conclusion. “Now an H-O-F-er -- even after I’m dead.”
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 1:
2. The Packers should find out whether their pass defense made any progress this offseason. They have made some personnel moves, among them moving B.J. Raji to nose tackle, inserting rookie safety Morgan Burnett into the starting lineup and shifting Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews to the other side of the line of scrimmage. But depth at cornerback remains an issue with Al Harris (knee) and Brandon Underwood (shoulder) sidelined by injury. Rookie Sam Shields could be the Packers' nickel back against an offense that attempted the fourth-most pass attempts of 15 yards or longer last season, according to research by ESPN's Stats & Information. With or without McNabb, the Eagles will try pushing the ball downfield. We'll find out if the Packers can handle it.
3. It's been a while since the Detroit Lions' defense had a notable advantage in any type of matchup. But it's hard to ignore the intensity and production with which their defensive line played this preseason, and if nothing else they'll carry a newfound confidence into Soldier Field. More than anything, I'm interested in seeing whether left end Cliff Avril is able capitalize on the presence of better-known teammates Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams. As we've discussed, the Bears' offensive line didn't inspire much confidence during the preseason. We'll find out if Avril is capable of capitalizing against Bears right tackle Frank Omiyale. I'm also interested in whether Bears left tackle Chris Williams can match Lions right end Vanden Bosch's intensity.
4. It will be interesting to see how heavily the Chicago Bears rely on a passing game that struggled all preseason. It doesn't fit the history of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but the best way to slow a pass rush is to establish your running game. Tailback Matt Forte appeared to have regained his burst during the preseason, most notably on an 89-yard touchdown run, and backup Chester Taylor had a nice 34-yard burst during the preseason as well. Running the ball straight at the Lions doesn't sound exciting or even a long-term answer, but it might be a good way to eat up yardage, control the clock and keep the Lions' explosive offense off the field while the passing game gets settled.
5. Credit goes to Chris Burke of NFLFanHouse for this one. Technically, the Minnesota Vikings' loss to the New Orleans Saints lifted the Lions out of last place in the NFC North for the first time since December 2007. Let's take it one step further. A win against the Bears would give the Lions a share of first place for the first time since September 2007. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The Lions should have as much pause about their linebackers and secondary as they do excitement about their offense. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy is struggling with a groin injury and might not play. Safety C.C. Brown and cornerback Jonathan Wade are both playing with bone fractures, and safety Louis Delmas has been limited by a groin injury. That's a lot of limitations to overcome.
Here's a 2009 story if there ever was one: Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett has questioned whether the Packers should step up their personnel efforts -- via Twitter.
According to this story from Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Barnett sent the following message via his Twitter account Tuesday night:
"Ok question does anyone else think we need more d line man???"
Barnett confirmed that he sent the message to the Twitter Web site when a reporter asked him at halftime of a Milwaukee Bucks game.
When asked to expand during the interview, Barnett -- who is rehabilitating from knee surgery -- said:
"We've lost some guys; it's a new scheme. We have [Cullen] Jenkins on the outside, [Ryan] Pickett on the inside; we'll have [Johnny] Jolly with whatever happens with his situation. But the years that we've been very good on defense, we've had good depth on the defensive line with some good quality. We have some young guys coming up, but it's always good to have that very good depth at d-line."
Asked if general manager Ted Thompson should have done more in free agency, Barnett said:
"I think he's done some good things by keeping guys on the team. I think he's going to do some good things in the draft. Ted's style is not to overpay. He kind of does a good job of keeping guys on the team that he likes and in the draft we'll see what happens."
This doesn't exactly qualify as a rip of Thompson. But Barnett's assessment of the Packers' defensive line, as it stands right now, is fair and accurate.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Media members received a tour of the Packers' new weight room Wednesday, and Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette filed this report. One nugget: "If you get caught sitting down, you have to do push-ups."
- I'm not a big fan of Chicago's plan to play Orlando Pace at left tackle and Chris Williams on the right side. But Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times notes it's been done many times before -- including with future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden in Baltimore.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune believes the Bears will make an aggressive push for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler before it is all said and done.
- Mike Mulligan of the Sun-Times reports the Broncos were requiring text and e-mail communication on Cutler because they couldn't keep up with the phone calls.
- Not unexpected news: The Broncos don't want the Lions' No. 1 overall pick in exchange for Cutler, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- David Birkett of the Oakland Press doesn't see the Lions and Cutler as a good match.
- Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune doesn't mince words when it comes to Minnesota pursuing Cutler: "Frankly, I would rather take my chances with Michael Vick, a rehabilitated dog fighter, than a brat so sensitive that he goes into a world-class pout when his new coach explores the possibility of bringing in a quarterback with whom the coach had previously worked."