Nearly 10 months after being carted off the field in Denver, Carter plans to take the restraints off again in his 2012 regular-season debut. Oakland coach Dennis Allen said Friday that Carter will be active for Oakland's game Sunday against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons.
How much the 12th-year pass-rush specialist plays is uncertain, though Allen indicated he wouldn't put limitations on Carter.
"It gives us a little bit more veteran leadership," Allen said. "He's a guy that understands how to do it and he's done it at a high level. He's come in and tried to help the whole group. He's been a good addition for us."
Carter was signed on Sept. 26 to help a pass rush that has produced just three sacks in four games. The 33-year-old has 76 career sacks, including 10 last year with New England before he suffered the season-ending leg injury.
The quadriceps muscle in Carter's left leg was torn so badly that he required surgery, followed up by a grueling stretch of rehab.
While the injury scared away many potential suitors, Oakland showed an early interest in Carter and had him in for workouts twice before signing him following their Week 3 win against Pittsburgh.
That victory has been the lone bright spot in the Raiders' first season since Hall of Fame owner Al Davis died in October 2011.
Oakland is off to a 1-3 start for the sixth time in eight seasons, with most of the problems coming on the defensive side. The Raiders are 25th overall, 28th against the pass.
Part of that is due to injuries that have sidelined starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Michael Huff, the team's starting free safety since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in 2006, will make his third consecutive start at cornerback this week.
Carter, who began his NFL career across the bay with San Francisco, hopes to help change that. He spent two weeks learning Oakland's defense, then joined the rest of the Raiders on Wednesday for his first padded practice since the injury.
"I knew the road to recovery was going to be a process," Carter said. "It's something you definitely have to be very patient about. You don't want to rush anything. You don't want to have any major setbacks, so I did the necessary things as far as my recovery."
Carter has been lining up primarily at right defensive end in practice, although he also worked on the left side Friday. The Raiders say they'll use him at both if need be to counter the Falcons' high-paced offense.
"He'll be a rotational player, and really that's how we've handled the defensive line anyway," Allen said. "You have to try to limit the number of plays that they play, especially playing a team like Atlanta that throws the ball like they do. You want to make sure you keep some fresh rushers out there."
Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is also expected to play for the first time since suffering a concussion and neck strain after being knocked unconscious following a helmet-to-chin hit by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Mundy on Sept. 23.