Commentary

Andre Carter has fans on all sides

Kind words by and about Patriots defensive lineman upon his return to Washington

Updated: December 9, 2011, 8:25 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran defensive end Andre Carter was the man of the moment Wednesday at Gillette Stadium, and he graciously played the role.

Carter has been around the NFL block long enough to know how things work. The 11-year veteran is in his first season with the New England Patriots after spending five with the Washington Redskins, and the Patriots visit the Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field.

[+] EnlargeAndre Carter
AP Photo/Charles KrupaAndre Carter asked for his release from Washington, and coach Mike Shanahan says it was granted because Carter "was such a class guy."

He knew he'd be in demand and he was giving of his time, making himself available as the locker room doors swung open to reporters at 11:15 a.m. and spending about 20 minutes answering questions. Then he plunked down in his chair, pressed his cell phone against his ear and dialed up the media in D.C. for the weekly opponents' conference call. He didn't stop until everyone's desires were met.

Such media relations won't help Carter much Sunday at 1 when he's attempting to break through the line of scrimmage and register his 10th sack of the season, but they are reflective of the type of player Bill Belichick brought into the team's locker room after signing him to a one-year, $2.25 million contract Aug. 8.

Carter's upbeat, passionate about football and understands that some weeks present additional responsibilities that help promote a game that has been good to him. Good luck finding anyone who doesn't have a good word to say about the 32-year-old Carter.

"He's been such a pleasure to have on this team and he's added a lot to our football team in a lot of different ways," said Belichick, who has quickly come to appreciate Carter's professionalism, attention to detail, and his peak physical condition.

Belichick noted how Carter plays as hard in practice as he does in games, and when the coaching staff has asked him to do different things, he's embraced them. "He's a very unselfish player that works hard and is consistent. He's really the same dependable player on a daily basis with a lot of consistency," he said.

Carter's approach contributed to the Redskins' decision to grant his request for a release after the 2010 season. The Redskins had switched to a 3-4 defense and Carter didn't see his role as an outside linebacker as a great fit. Neither did coach Mike Shanahan, so instead of forcing the issue, he gave Carter what he wanted.

"We let him go just because he was such a class guy," Shanahan said, adding that he "was the most accountable guy that you could be around, a pro."

Carter reflected fondly on his time with the Redskins and things like the connection he shared with linebacker London Fletcher. He spoke about playing for "great men" such as coach Joe Gibbs and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, as well as the emotional 2007 season in which the Redskins were rocked by the death of safety Sean Taylor in late November and inspired to win in his memory.

Even though he got what he wanted, Carter said he thought his career might be over when he was released because few players of his age and experience were being signed, in part because of the lockout. He views landing in New England as a blessing.

Ironically, if not for the lockout, Carter probably wouldn't be in New England as the shortened offseason was the reason Belichick switched from a base 3-4 defense to a 4-3, his thinking that there wouldn't be enough time to successfully implement a more complex scheme.

Carter was looking to return to a base 4-3 and that's the scheme Belichick felt was the best fit for him, going back to 2001 when he personally worked out Carter before the draft. If Belichick returns to the 3-4 next season, it could be a one-year stay for Carter, his presence reflective of how the Patriots have targeted some players on short-term deals to help transition to a new scheme.

Regardless, Carter's performance has been one of the bright spots for the Patriots' season as he leads the team with nine sacks and 19 quarterback hits. He has been one of the highest playtime performers on the defense; in 11 games he's been charted on the field for 663 of 852 snaps (including penalties), a 77.8 percent clip. It's been a smooth transition from Washington to New England.

"The chapter is turned and the new chapter begins," Carter said.

For the Patriots, it's been one of the nice stories of their season.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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