Last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Kerry Carter's knee gave out while making a cut in the backfield, and his 2006 football season with the Washington Redskins was over before it had seemingly begun. But after talking to the young Canadian, it was obvious that this wasn't a journey that had just begun, and it was a journey that Kerry enjoyed immensely.
Here is a transcript of our phone conversation from Friday, August 18th:
Mark: Hi Kerry, thanks for talking with us. First and most obvious question... how's the knee coming along? Have you had surgery yet?
Kerry: I'm scheduling the surgery tomorrow, so I haven't had it yet. I'm actually just trying to get a little bit of the swelling down now and get a little bit of flexion back before I go into surgery so that my recovery time will go down a little bit.
Mark: Do you require surgery on both the ACL and the MCL?
Kerry: Luckily, the MCL will repair itself over time, so we don't have to really do much there. The ACL is obviously what we have to focus on.
Mark: Are you familiar with the procedure you'll be having?
Kerry: Yeah, I'm not sure yet, but I think the procedure is going to be standard where they basically scrape off a piece of the patella, and use that in re-attaching both the bone and where the ACL was.
Mark: It's truly amazing how far the knee ligament surgeries have come, have they given you an idea of how long of a rehabilitation process you're looking at?
Kerry: No, not really. I've talked to other people that have had the same procedure, and they've told me anything from six to seven months before you're back out on the field. So that's encouraging to me. Normally I'd want to do it a little faster than that, but I'm just going to keep a positive frame of mind knowing that it's going to go by really quickly and I'll be back on the field in no time.
Mark: Obviously you must have been bitterly disappointed when it happened. You were having a really good camp, you were getting a long look in the scrimmage; I know you're a positive guy and you've had a few days to reflect on it, so what positives do you take out of your experience in Washington so far?
Kerry: I've had a great experience so far. It's been a while since I felt like I had really improved on the field as far as the 'little' things are concerned. I think just coming up here and seeing how things work, and how the other backs work... and working with the running backs coach has just been great. Earnest Byner is a legend here and he's been through a lot, and played at such a high level for so many years that he's able to teach us some things that maybe other coaches can't teach us. You know he's been there and he's done it, so...
Mark: Yeah it's a pretty phenomenal all-star coaching staff in Washington...
Kerry: They have a superstar coaching staff that is very knowledgeable... they know every detail of the game and they focus on every aspect of it from offense, to defense, to special teams. It's allowed me to have a good time while making me a tougher-minded player as well.
Mark: Did you learn anything that maybe surprised you?
Kerry: Oh yeah. I always try to take in the whole situation. The defense really impressed me with the way that they approach EVERY day and the attitude they have towards the game and the respect that they have for it. Just seeing how they all run for the ball and how they approach it 24/7 and yet nobody complains about it. They just go out and do their jobs and their whole goal is just to be the best and to be a great TEAM and to win a championship. That's the single most important thing to them. It's not statistics, it's not notoriety, and all they want is the respect of their teammates and to prove that they are the best. I think that's what I learned most outside of actual football.
Mark: Great stuff, great answer Kerry. I had a chance to talk to Jesse a little bit at camp and we talked a bit about whether or not it helped to have another Canadian at camp and he told me basically that you guys are just good friends. I asked if it made it more difficult with the fact that you were basically vying for the same position and he said that it didn't and that you both knew what you were there to do...
Kerry: Yeah definitely. It has definitely been a good thing. We were roommates while we were training for camp in the off-season, so we became good friends and even though you know that you're competing, you want to see the other guy do well because you know where they come from and how much work they put in. Both being Canadian was a big plus in my eyes because you've got someone you can relate to on that level and I'll definitely pull for him and I definitely want him to be successful. I've told him to just keep doing what he's doing because they like him a lot around here and that's because he's a good back, and he's coachable and he's improving every day. If he keeps that attitude, he's going to be fine and he's going to have a great career.
Mark: You and Jesse are obviously in the minority as Canadians at an NFL camp but there are more and more Canadians succeeding in the NFL all the time. Do you have any advice for young Canadians that want to follow in your footsteps with regards to planning their actual route to get there, because you and Jesse both got there via two totally different methods...
Kerry: I think you just have to take the opportunities that arise. I definitely think that the route I took might have been, almost in a way, a little bit easier than the route Jesse took just because of the exposure and what not. But the career that he had up in Canada set him apart from everybody else. So I think you have to approach it with the attitude that you're never just happy to be there, you have to want to excel once you get there. You have to realize that the NFL is an attainable goal regardless of whether you get there as a first round draft pick or as an undrafted free agent. When you're presented with opportunities, you have to be ready the second that opportunity comes along. Don't go in there worrying about what can go wrong, You can only control what you can control, so that's all you should focus on. Focus on yourself, and improving each day. If you can go out and learn the system so that your talent can shine through, it makes it easier because you know that you can play the game. When it comes down to it, you know the fundamentals, you know how to play the game, so if you can get to the frame of mind out there, where once you're out there, you're just reacting, everything just takes over and you can be very, very successful.
Mark: I know you're passionate about charity, especially as it pertains to kids, so will you be channeling and focusing a lot of your energy into that as you rehab your knee?
Kerry: Definitely, I was actually just on the phone with the executive director of my foundation. We were talking about some ideas we had for a couple of events that we want to put on. A couple in Seattle, and talked about doing a big weekend in Toronto next year. So I'll definitely be putting a lot of energy that knowing that I have some time away from the game. It's something that I'm passionate about like you said, and I welcome the opportunity to do a little bit more and I'll have the time to do a little bit more.
Mark: Thanks a lot for your time Kerry, best of luck with your rehabilitation, and we look forward to seeing you out on the field again soon.
My original intention for this article was for it to be more formal, and not of a question and answer nature. Truthfully, as I went through the interview and reviewed my notes, I just didn't want to truncate any of what Kerry had said. So I left in its informal form because I thought Kerry's answers were very complete and didn't require any 'window dressing'.
It's always a pleasure to interview someone whom you knew was giving you their undivided attention and felt obliged to make sure that he had answered the question asked. His even-tempered demeanor and positive attitude removed any discomfort about asking about the abrupt end to his season. While this was an unfortunate end to a lot of hard work by Kerry, it's obvious that not only is he not the kind of person to dwell on it, he's the kind of person that will actually learn from it.
Our thanks to Kerry for his time and his good grace, and we look forward to catching up with him again soon.