THN Weekly with Andre Carter: Week 1
Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come. Football has been back for over a month but now the records and standings count.
From July 30th to late August, coaches and players fought through two-a-days to improve themselves and this team. For veterans especially, training camp is viewed as an unwelcome but necessary evil.
“Training camp is training camp. There is no patty cake during training camp. You have your good days and not so good days. Your body is going to be sore and mentally you are going to be asking yourself, ‘What am I doing here?’ At the end of the day, you feel like you accomplished another day of two-a-days and you can go home and be proud of yourself. However, in my career, this training camp went by fast. Why? I don't know. For me, it might be the fact that I am getting older and the familiarity of my body going through another training camp,” defensive end Andre Carter said.
What has been welcome by the team, though, has been the accommodation made by Head Coach Jim Zorn specifically for team veterans. In what appears to be an adjustment in leadership style, Coach Zorn allowed players with four or more years of NFL experience to stay at home when away from Redskins Park as opposed to the nearby team hotel.
“I think overall Coach Zorn felt that the vets were old enough and responsible to stay home. He was open to the idea that the best sleep is in ‘your own bed.’ What's great is that Coach Zorn was a player and he knows that the beds supplied for players at a facility aren’t always the best for recovery. Maybe it was a test trial or maybe not but I hope we can do it again next year. I enjoyed coming home and sleeping in my large bed as opposed to sleeping in a twin bed. I can't say that this adjustment will help us in the long run, because training camp is over. The season is about to begin,” Carter said.
For the second year in a row, the Redskins begin their season in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants.
The team’s only blemish in it’s first five games last season was the opening contest against the Giants but that, Carter says, will not be a factor in how the team approaches their 2009 opener, which is scheduled to be their last regular season game in Giants Stadium.
“Last year is last year. For us, as well as the other 31 teams in the NFL, it’s a new beginning. The motivation for winning can come in many different aspects of competition. The one thing that motivates me is my God, my family and the brothers on the field. My teammates entrust that I will do my job and vice versa. When you have a strong level of camaraderie in any organization, you can overcome anything.”
“Winning in the NFL isn't easy and especially the season opener with a twist of playing against a rival opponent. Winning the first game of the season opener sets the tone for the organization. It creates a level of identity of how the players want to be during the year.”
The Redskins performance on Sunday will also be the culmination of a long and not-so-quiet spring, which produced the NFL’s first $100 million defensive player in the form of tackle Albert Haynesworth.
Having only been here for seven months, he is already making his impression on this team.
“Haynesworth has been great. His presence on the field is going to be big. I have watched him pass rush and he is strong and can move for a big man. He has great hands and is able to force the pocket in passing situations. He is going to create more one-on-one opportunities for myself, Brian [Orakpo] and [Cornelius] Griffin,” Carter said.
As for how Albert interacts with teammates off the field, Carter has no complaints in that regard, either.
“Haynesworth in the locker room is hilarious. He is practical joker and he and I crack on each other every now and then. He has never been distant with us.”
Andre has also been interacting with two defensive additions of the younger variety, defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo, the team’s first round selection in this year’s draft in April, and defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, who was taken in the third round of July’s supplemental draft.
Both are looked upon as foundations of the future for the Redskins defense. Carter is one of many people who have high hopes for those two.
“Orakpo and Jarmon look great so far. I told Orakpo I am adopting him as my son. It’s a little inside joke that we have. But watching him, he has been explosive off the ball, stays low, and zags in and out. Jarmon has great hands and can bull rush. Those two, Lord willing if they stay healthy, have a future. As vets we teach these youngsters ‘Redskin Defense.’ Running to the ball, finishing assignments and execution are key elements to being a great defense. I feel that Jarmon and Orakpo have listened to detail and followed instructions on how to play on that level.”
The defensive line has seen many changes since last winter, but one of the constants over the past two seasons has been the multi-faceted Lorenzo Alexander, who has been catching Carter’s attention as of late.
“I have been impressed with Lorenzo Alexander since last off season because I have seen him develop as a player and he’s going to be a dominant player in the NFL. He has speed and quickness and can play tackle or end at any given situation. This offseason he shed 20 to 25 lbs by bike riding and doing a crazy ab circuit. I am sure he admired my abs and was trying to simulate my physique (laughing). But honestly I am very impressed how he has looked during the preseason. He is ready to go.”
Despite his positive impressions of the defense going into Sunday’s divisional battle, Carter knows things need to change from last season despite their high ranking.
“You can't compare this defense from this year to last year. We are better today than we were yesterday. I feel the 2008 season was a starting point for us. Yes, we were ranked number four but we didn't create big plays and turnovers. We can change all that with the proper mindset, however we need to be consistent and not show glimpses of it during the season.”
With the loss of receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer along with running back Derrick Ward in the offseason, the Giants offense certainly has a new look to it, which will be something the Redskins defense will have to adjust to and be ready for on Sunday.
Regardless of the opponent’s personnel turnover, the agenda remains the same.
“When you play an opponent, especially a divisional opponent, the main objective is to have each individual do his job on the field. Whether its coverage, pass rush, gap responsibility, etc. When you win a majority of these battles then the level of success is high,” Carter said.
Now that the regular season is finally approaching, Redskins fans face a variety of emotions leading up to kickoff, much like the players themselves. For Carter, once the ball is kicked off of the tee, it’s time to focus.
“When I step on the field I live in the moment. I am blessed to play NFL football. I am one of the few in my draft class [left]. Nine years I have played this game and it’s been an enjoyable experience and I reflect on my life and career and the blessing God has given me. When the whistle blows I take a deep breath and go to work.”
Under the Helmet:
THN: Describe how your offseason went since the last time we talked.
AC: The offseason went real well. I had a memorable experience. Spending time with my wife and kids made my days go by fast. We really didn't travel much but we enjoyed hanging outside and going to different venues during the day.
THN: If you had it your way and could play any other position on the field, what would it be and why?
AC: I would love to play wide receiver because I could finally know how to catch the dang football.
This article was released on 2009-09-10.
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