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BOSTON (CBS) – Andre Carter was facing a big decision when it came to his NFL career.
After a September workout with the Patriots came and went without a job, Carter knew could either hold on and hope for another phone call or cross over to the media side. After 12 years of chasing after opposing quarterbacks, he was exploring all post-football options, and appeared ready to become an analyst.
But as he sat in his California home with his family on Monday night, almost ready to give up on another season in the NFL, his phone finally rang. It was the New England Patriots again, and they wanted to know how soon Carter could be in Foxboro for another workout.
A red-eye flight and a workout later, Carter is back on the team he played for during the 2011 season.
“It’s great,”Carter said Wednesday from the Patriots locker room. “Me and my wife were talking, and this place holds a special meaning. Not just as far as what I did, but just the camaraderie I had here. The city of Foxboro, the state, it was very memorable. I’m blessed to be back.”
When Carter was sent home in September, he was told to be ready just in case. That’s when he decided he would only answer the call if it was the Patriots on the other end.
“My mindset was it’s either Patriots or retirement. That’s what it was,” Carter said. “Fortunately the Patriots called me and I’m here today.”
Carter donned a Patriots uniform for 14 games in 2011, racking up 10 sacks before a quad injury ended his season. He was a welcome addition to a blossoming Patriots pass-rush that year, but was not brought back in 2012 after New England drafted Chandler Jones in the first round of the draft.
But Carter understands the business side of the game, and said there were no hard feelings towards the Patriots. He signed with the Raiders for the 2012 season, playing in 12 games, but said he always had an eye on the Patriots.
“What hurt was the fact we didn’t win it all,” Carter said of the 2011 Patriots. “But that is the past. I still kept in contact with (Vince) Wilfork, (Jerod) Mayo and a lot of my teammates and told them we would continue to be brothers as the game moved on.”
“I always watched the Patriots, supporting my brothers and new brothers,” he said.
Now, both Wilfork and Mayo are sidelined for the rest of the season, and Carter is in to help fill the void.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised his new veteran on Wednesday, but said he wasn’t sure how much Carter will be used come Sunday when the Patriots host the Miami Dolphins.
“We have a lot of respect for Andre. 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,” said Belichick. “But in the end, it still comes down to performance on the field and all that, so we’ll see.”
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Carter said he did a lot of cross-fit in the offseason, but admitted that’s much different from playing football. He said he felt good after Wednesday’s practice and wasn’t too winded, but also said he isn’t sure how much he’ll play — if at all — come Sunday.
“I’m just learning the scheme, where everyone fits,” said Carter. “It’s 100,000 mph, but I’m just trying to stay on top of my game and my craft as well as my technique in regards to what plays are called.”
Carter will wear #96 this time around with the Patriots, but that isn’t the only difference between the Patriots’ D now and the defense he played on three years ago.
“(It’s a) very talented group of young guys, trying to find their niche and place, just like any young team,” Carter said. “They’re just as talented as any other group, and the most important thing is to remain consistent and understand how this game is played.”
And Carter will do his best to help a defensive unit that is still learning while also dealing with a pair of major injuries.
“I told them I’d give them what I have,” said the 36-year-old. “I may not know everyone’s name, but as long as you wear that jersey we’re teammates and we’re in this together.”
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