Andre Carter's 2009 Offseason Assessment
Last season, THN launched a weekly interview during the preseason with Redskins starting defensive end Andre Carter, aptly named: “THN Weekly with Andre Carter.”
THN is proud to announce that Andre has happily agreed to continue THN Weekly for the 2009 season. And in this special installment of THN Weekly, Andre gives his thoughts on just about everything that happened during yet another entertaining offseason as well as how he spent his down time during the late winter and spring.
The Jason Campbell Situation
“[We] have his back through the ups and downs.”
By far, the most intriguing story of the offseason revolved around starting quarterback Jason Campbell. Considering that the Redskins had many pressing needs along both lines of the ball as well as the need to acquire depth at other crucial positions, the thought of Campbell’s status at the quarterback position being in question never crossed anyone’s mind.
That is until the Denver Broncos made Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler available in a trade this offseason following miscommunication between he and new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniel.
Owner Dan Snyder and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato pursued hard but in an unusual circumstance, lost out to the Chicago Bears, who traded their starting quarterback, Kyle Orton, and several high draft picks to acquire Cutler.
The pursuit of Cutler raised eyebrows and was the topic of many colorful debates in the D.C. area. While many questioned Campbell’s calm personality and lack of killer instinct, others defended him, citing the lack of tenure and stability with his offensive coordinators, dating back to his college days.
Regardless, Campbell handled the situation with class and was not abrasive with his feelings like Cutler was. And despite his roster status being put into question, Campbell is still highly respected in the Redskins locker room.
“I felt that Jason was a professional about the situation. He understood what was going on and knew it was a business. He could have easily, on camera, [had] a tantrum, however he was very collected and expressed his feelings in a positive manner,” Carter said.
The Redskins could have wound up with Cutler or the highly hyped signal caller out of USC, Mark Sanchez, who they heavily pursued prior to and during the draft. But when asked whom he would prefer under center when the season rolls around, Carter undoubtedly chose the team’s current quarterback.
“I prefer to play with Jason because he is the quarterback that I began playing with since ‘06. Jason is very driven and determined. I can't fathom what he has been going through these past few years with the changes of the head coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. I am sure his head must have been spinning throughout his career. He never complained, though, and always had a positive outlook on not only football but also life. I have enjoyed playing with him,” Carter said.
Carter said that the situation took him by surprise and doesn’t know why the team pursued other quarterback options but that he realizes that when it comes to the NFL, it’s a safe bet to expect the unexpected.
“I have seen a lot to know that this business is a roller coaster. You have to have faith in God and control what you can. In the end, you leave it out on the field and hope for the best because nothing lasts forever in the NFL,” Carter said.
“Jason is our quarterback for the 2009 season. I pray that he has one of the best years in his career. Not only I, but the rest of the players support him and have his back through the ups and downs.”
Big Al Comes to Town
“It’s going to be an exciting year.”
Before the Campbell saga arose, the biggest news resonating around Ashburn, VA was the acquisition of former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
The Redskins gave Haynesworth an NFL record (for a defensive player) $100 million contract with $41 million in guarantees just hours after free agency began.
This franchise has longed for an improvement in their pass rush since the days of Charles Mann and Dexter Manley. Bringing in 2009’s free agent prize is seen as the best way to free up opportunities for the rest of the defensive line to disrupt opposing passers. Among the main beneficiaries of his presence should be the defensive ends, including Carter, who was the last Redskin to record 10 sacks in a season (he had 10.5 in 2007).
Carter feels Haynesworth’s ability to take on multiple blockers at once will create chances for the rest of the line.
“Having Haynesworth is a big step in the defense, along with signing vets like Renaldo Wynn back and the return of Philip Daniels this year. It allows depth and opens [up] opportunities for big plays for not only myself but the other 10 guys on the field. He is a big body and can take on two or three blockers on the pass. This should allow more one-on-one matchups for the defensive line,” Carter said.
“It was a blessing having him join the Redskins organization. I have seen him in action on film and it’s going to be an exciting year,” he continued.
To make things even better, Carter says Haynesworth has fit in with his new teammates pretty well to this point.
“So far it’s been positive. The OTA's and mini-camps are an opportunity to feel the new teammates out, as well as how you feel as an individual. I think he is taking his time getting adjusted with our scheme. Like everything, it’s a process but he is coming along well,” Carter said.
Welcome Back, Hello, and Goodbye
“The opportunity to play in the NFL is priceless.”
The Redskins brought back some familiar faces this offseason while parting ways with several popular veterans, most of who had brought much success to this team over the past five years.
The list of returning familiar faces is headlined by guard Derrick Dockery, who signed a $49 million deal to leave Washington for western New York during the 2007 offseason.
Dockery was surprisingly released by the Buffalo Bills on the eve of free agency and following a visit to the Detroit Lions a day later, he was quickly snatched up by the Redskins.
Also brought back were the previously mentioned veteran defensive linemen Renaldo Wynn, who had spent the last two seasons in New Orleans and with the New York Giants respectively, and Phillip Daniels, whose contract was voided by the Redskins one week prior to free agency in a salary cap move.
“It’s great to have the guys that I played with my first year with the Redskins back. Its shows that the Redskins are not scared to sign vets and allow players who have had opportunities to work for organizations, to come back and rejoin the family,” Carter said regarding the returning veterans.
The Redskins also brought in several familiar and not-so-familiar names into the fold.
Haynesworth was not the only big signing by the Redskins this offseason. The team also added offensive tackle and former #4 overall pick Mike Williams into the fold. Williams has not played a down since the 2006 preseason. He spent his first four seasons in Buffalo and his brief 2006 stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars when he was placed on injured reserve prior to the regular season.
He admittedly let his weight rise to 450 pounds during his time away from football but has worked his way down to around the 380 mark. His story is an intriguing one, much like former first round selection Robert Thomas, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2002, just like Williams.
Coming out of UCLA, the Rams had high expectations for Thomas, who never lived up to the billing of being a first round linebacker and has bounced around with the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders.
Both have come to the Redskins on relatively cheap deals and are hoping to prove their worth in this league through their present opportunity provided by the burgundy and gold.
“I am confident that Robert and Mike will help contribute this year. Cheap deal or a big deal, the opportunity to play in the NFL is priceless and I believe that’s all Robert and Mike wanted is to give it one more shot,” Carter said.
The Redskins had to rid themselves of valuable players as well, whether it was due to injuries, cost or age. The group is headlined by the most recent casualty, right tackle Jon Jansen, who was the longest tenured player on the team.
Andre said that the move came as a surprise to him and he doesn’t know why Jansen was released but he does hope that he provides success to his hometown Detroit Lions, who signed him just hours after his departure from Washington.
“Jansen was a guy who led by example. He is a 10-year vet and that is hard to come by. Not many players can play that long so it was a nice journey for him to play many games for the Redskins,” Carter said.
The Redskins also had to make several other tough decisions including the release of two defensive leaders, cornerback Shawn Springs and linebacker Marcus Washington, a locker room favorite, while linebacker and special teams ace Khary Campbell, is unlikely to return as an unrestricted free agent. The team also released defensive end and future Hall of Famer Jason Taylor, who was acquired in a trade following Daniels’ torn ACL ended his season in the first practice of training camp last summer.
Springs and Taylor landed on their feet in the AFC East with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins respectively. Springs is now with a legitimate Super Bowl contender while Taylor returns to his old, comfortable stomping grounds.
“Shawn Springs will be missed to a certain extent. The reason why I say that is, like myself, or any other player, we are expendable in this business. Every player’s time will come when you need to check out. That’s why I enjoy the moment I have because once it’s done, it’s done. A new player will replace me in the end. Shawn was hurt [the] majority of the season and this is a production business. When you don't perform, you don't get paid. That’s the business,” Carter said.
Like Springs, injuries played a big role in Taylor’s 2008 season and therefore, his production dropped significantly since his previous stint as a Dolphin.
Perhaps the biggest loss in terms of entertainment and team camaraderie came in the form of Washington’s release. He provided the spark and energy needed during every play he was on the field and also the humor off of it to keep the team loose during tough situations.
The Redskins had reached out to the charismatic veteran and inquired about a possible return to the burgundy and gold but he still feels he is worth more than what the team would like for him to re-sign for.
“I don't know if Marcus will return. I just know that I personally will never forget the experiences that I had with him. We still speak to this day. He was the guy to tell me that I need to get loose and buck wild and let it go. That’s why sometimes I often do some off-the-wall moves after a big play. It’s because of him, that I am the way I am since I had joined the organization in 2006. You can never replace a leader like Marcus. A man that is very analytical to the most outrageous thoughts that you have ever imagined, mostly dumb, but he kept me, as well as the other teammates, entertained. I hope that he still has a future somewhere else,” Carter said.
Another defensive presence that has moved on and will likely be noticed is defensive end Demetric Evans. It seemed that whenever Evans was installed in a certain defensive situation, he made a play in one way or another whether it was in the form of a sack, fumble, pass defended, quarterback hurry or a tackle for a loss.
Evans wanted to come back to the Redskins but the team never reciprocated the level of interest so he has taken his services 3,000 miles away to San Francisco.
“Demetric Evans had a great year. I don't know why we didn't resign him. He had proven himself as a starter and is now with the 49ers. I wish him the best of luck,” Carter said.
Redskins Draft a Pass Rushing Threat
“I will get him started.”
After sniffing around at the opportunity to draft Sanchez and failing to acquire a quarterback for the second time this offseason, the Redskins quickly selected a position of need. Immediately after the Broncos took running back Knowshown Moreno at No. 12, Redskins officials handed in their time card and their pick was quickly announced at the podium.
Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, whose stock soared as the draft approached, fell into the Redskins lap with the 13th pick. Currently working as a linebacker during OTA’s, he is known, much like Carter, as a physical specimen and workout warrior with a high motor.
Carter contacted him right after the draft, providing him well wishes and is beginning to get a feel for the newest defensive weapon. After going through his first mini camp and OTA session, Carter feels Orakpo has a lot of character, which is needed on a team that lost plenty of valuable veteran leadership this spring.
Carter said that’s he and his fellow linemates will tutor their young protégé and get him accustomed to life in the NFL as quickly as possible.
“I will get him started, as well as the vets like Renaldo and Philip. We can give a rookie as much information [as] possible about being a rookie on and off the field. Now, how he processes the knowledge we have given to him is up to him.”
Andre’s Personal and Team Prognosis
“It was a great offseason.”
Considering the amount of time during the summer, fall and winter that is devoted to his craft, Andre enjoys his time away from the action as much as any NFL player.
And some of the most enjoyable pleasures come from the home and in Carter’s case, his family.
“The offseason was great. It’s time to relax and give the body a blow. We didn't really do much traveling. We just hung out and watched our kids go nuts. The off season went by pretty fast,” Carter said.
“My most memorable offseason [moment] was watching my son throw temper tantrums. It’s hilarious watching him roll all over the ground and pound the ground with his fist. You would have to be there to see it. We started watching Kung Fu Panda and he gets a kick out of that,” Carter said with as much conviction and joy as any proud father can provide.
While his son pounded his fists, Andre was pounding his feet, working on his athletic agility and rapidity for the 2009 season.
“I am feeling great this off season. I really focused on my speed and quick feet as well as endurance. I worked with a martial arts instructor once a week and did my running and lifting three times out of the week. It was a great offseason,” he said.
Looking back on the offseason the Redskins had, Carter says that the expectations are rising for this team to improve and that he is not the only one with high hopes that they will become a success.
“After the free agency and the draft, I rank the team real high when it comes to the level of expectations. You can have all of the talent in the world but if the pieces of the puzzle don't come together, it’s not going to work. I am very optimistic and so are my teammates. We just need to play football and lay the chips down on the table.”
This article was released on 2009-06-09.
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