|Markell Carter welcomes the idea of joining Patriots’ rookies to get extra work||05.14.12 at 4:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Of all the players at rookie minicamp this past weekend at Gillette Stadium, the one that could have taken issue with the fact that he was there was Markell Carter.
The defensive end/outside linebacker was maybe the most productive member of the Patriots’ practice squad last season — it was a rare occasion when he didn’t have a black practice jersey in the locker signifying that he was one of the practice players of the week.
But the glass-is-half-full Carter looked on the opportunity to take part in rookie minicamp as a blessing. In a session with the media before heading to practice, he was able to convey just how important the weekend of work is for him, especially since he didn’t get a chance to get into a game last season.
“I’m getting a lot of work in that I wasn’t able to get last year, so this weekend my main focus has been getting better, just trying to grow in the defense and pick up on those things I missed last year,” he said.
It was an up-and-down year for Carter. He was a sixth-round pick out of Central Arkansas, but didn’t get the necessary foundation for a rookie heading into his first season in the NFL because of the lockout. Carter and the rest of the rookies got a late start, and that affected their overall development.
“Of course, whenever you can get a couple months in before that’s always going to help. I got here [and] on the first day, I got a playbook about this big on my desk and the next morning I was expected to know it all,” said Carter, recalling last season. “So to just have that time to prepare and just feel comfortable with the teammates, that means a lot, too.”
Carter made the roster, and landed on the practice squad. While there was no game action, the Patriots thought enough of him to give him a bump in pay from the usual practice squad contract of $150,000 to more than $300,000. It was an investment in their future.
“There was no bitterness that I wasn’t able to play,” said the 6-foot-4 Carter. “Bill [Belichick] is a great coach. Whenever he says I’m ready, I’m ready. The pay raise let you know that they’re interested in you, and whenever your boss gives you a pay raise, you’re going to feel good about yourself.
“It was a little bit more motivation. For me it was like they wanted me here, but they gave me this pay raise just to show me how much they’ve invested in me, so I need to invest more into them as well.”
And it’s clear that Carter has used the year to his advantage: He has remade his body, going from 250 as a collegian to an estimated 275 pounds (thanks, he says, to a diet consisting of a lot of peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches). He says he still has the same burst when it comes to getting after the passer.
He also got a chance to understand what it takes to succeed on the NFL level.
“I learned a lot — just the whole operation, just the day-to-day, how to be a professional. I learned the Patriots way,” said Carter. “How to handle myself with this whole new situation that I’ve kind of been thrown into. The time on the practice squad gave me a lot of time to develop, gave me a lot of time to focus on who I was as a football player and even as a man myself, being on my own.”
With the added bulk and a year under his belt, Carter will now figure into the mix in the search for some depth at pass rusher. New England lost Mark Anderson in free agency, while the future of Andre Carter remains murky because of a late-season calf injury he suffered last December. Carter is part of a group of younger defensive players (like rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower) who are anxious to prove themselves at the next level.
“You’ve got a lot of young fresh legs running around out there. You’ve got a lot of eagerness out there. We all want to prove ourselves,” said Carter. “Us being so young, we haven’t established ourselves in this league. So we just kind of want to build on what some of the older guys like Andre and (Shaun) Ellis and [Gerard Warren] and some of the guys did last year and just keep building on that.”
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