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Andre Carter: ‘I’m just blessed to be back’ with Patriots

10.23.13 at 2:49 pm ET
By
Andre Carter

Andre Carter

FOXBORO — Andre Carter doesn’t have any guarantees. He doesn’t know how much he’ll play, where he’ll be playing, or what his level of fitness might be when he gets back on the field on a consistent basis.

But what he does know is that he’s back where he belongs.

The veteran defensive end, who spent the 2011 season with the Patriots, returned to New England this week, signing a one-year deal with the Patriots for the second time in his career. Speaking after practice on Wednesday afternoon, the 34-year-old California native — who has played for the Redskins, Niners and Raiders over the course of his career — is clearly excited to be back in New England.

“This place holds a special meaning — not just in terms of what I did. Just the camaraderie I had here in 2011,” he said. “The town, the city of Foxboro, the state. It was very memorable, and I’m just blessed to be back.”

Carter had a terrific 2011 season — utilized mostly as a situational pass rusher, he finished the year with 10 sacks. However, an injury late in the season prevented him from being a part of the run to the Super Bowl. At the end of the year, he signed a one-year contract to return to the West Coast to play for Oakland.

“I think what hurt was the fact that we didn’t win it all, but that was the past,” he said. “At the end of the day, business is business. I still kept in contact with Mayo, Wilfork and a lot of my teammates, and told them they would continue to be brothers. As you know, the game moves on, but the Patriots will always be in my heart, no matter what.”

Carter was on New England’s radar over the course of the offseason, and he worked out for them recently. While he spent the first seven weeks keeping an eye on his “brothers,” he wasn’t sure he’d get the call to return.

“I know that after we did the workout, I pretty much said hello to everybody, as well as my quick goodbyes and just said, ‘You never know what may happen.’ That’s the business. I understood it,” he said. “So I went back home, just continued to work out and also focus on other career avenues, just in case nothing did happen in terms of returning here. Lo and behold, we’re here now.”

Carter said at this point in his professional life, it was down to two choices.

“At the end of the day, after I did my workout with the Patriots, I had talked to my family. My whole mindset was it’s either the Patriots or retirement. And that’s where I was,” he said. “Fortunately, the Patriots called me, and I’m here today.”

“It’s great,” said Logan Mankins. “The guys who have been around him before, he’s a good teammate, he works hard in practice and he’s one of those guys who … I guess he’s healthy, so he’s going to help us a lot. He’s a hard-working guy who listens to the coaches [and] he knows what to do when he’s on the field.”

The level of familiarity was likely one of the reasons the idea of signing Carter appealed to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“We have a lot of respect for Andre,” Belichick said. “He’s a hard working guy that’s given us great leadership in the past and is a good teammate — I mean, everybody loves Andre. But in the end, it still comes down to performance on the field and all that, so we’ll see.”

“Some things are different. The terminology is the same,” Carter said in terms of the differences between now and when he was here in 2011. “But as far as the scheme itself, there are a few tweaks. But that’s the NFL in general. You can’t always run the same scheme year after year. You have to constantly modify it, because that’s the only way you’re going to get better and make plays.”

It remains to be seen how much Carter has left in the tank, but it’s feasible he can be utilized as a situational rusher who could offer some depth at the defensive end position, as well as provide the Patriots with a chance to move some bodies around in hopes of minimizing personnel losses because of injury.

“That’s a good question. That’ll be contingent on how the coaches feel,” he said when asked about possible playing time. “I’m just constantly learning the scheme and having an understanding of how everyone fits. It’s 100,000 miles per hour. But I’m just trying to stay on top of my game, my craft and my technique and execution in regards to the plays that are called.

It’s also likely that his greatest contributions this time around could come as a mentor to New England’s young defensive linemen like Michael Buchanan, Chandler Jones, Marcus Forston, Joe Vellano and Chris Jones.

To that point, when asked about what sticks out the most about the 2013 defense, he was quick to respond.

“Young. The defense is a lot different compared to when I was here in 2011. We’re young,” Carter said. “It’s a talented group of guys, a real talented group of individuals. I’m sure they’re trying to find their niche, their place. Like any young team. But they’re just as talented as any other group. I think the most important thing is to remain consistent and understand how this game is played.

“There’s a little learning curve, just like any young defense. They’re constantly developing. I’m sure where there are times in certain schemes where a younger guy may not understand where he fits. And that happens. I think the most important thing, like any other defense, is communication. You have to constantly communicate and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

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