Oakland Raiders defensive end Andre Carter isn't ready to fade into the sunset.
Carter graciously gave me 20 minutes of his time last Friday (h/t Darwin Navarette of PickFactor.com for setting it up). We chatted about the NFL's new safety rules, how he feels about his accomplishments, what it's like being with the Raiders this season and his passion for the game.
During my interview with the veteran, it became clear to me that Carter is ready to hit the ground running in 2013 after getting back into the swing of things in the second half of 2012.
Carter ruptured his quad late last season with the New England Patriots after racking up 52 tackles and 10 sacks in 14 games. He injected much-needed life into the Patriots defense, and he's ready to do it again.
In a limited role with the Raiders in 2012, Carter has made his presence felt, tallying 11 tackles and one sack.
Here are some highlights from my interview:
Bleacher Report: You're a 12-year veteran who's been around the block a few times. With the NFL's new safety-first rules, has that affected the way you and your teammates play the game, if at all?
Andre Carter: You know, I don't really marinate on it at all. At the end of the day, football is football. I understand and I respect the new rules that have been made in regards to the safety of the players, but you can't go out in this game being tentative. Because if you're tentative in this game, then you'll end up getting hurt.
I have been fined a few times. There's been a few times where I thought it was a clean hit, but the league thought different, and they made their decision. I did my best to appeal it, but unfortunately, it didn't go in my favor.
Football is just a matter of execution and doing your job, and I take pride in that. So, at the end of the day, I'm the one that has to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself if I gave it my all, did I attack the ball well, did I tackle well? And if I did that, then I'm a happy man.
B/R: I hadn't planned on asking this, but in light of recent events, it seems like the right time. Alex Smith just lost his job to Colin Kaepernick after a concussion. Do you feel like that might set things back? Do you think that some players might be hesitant to show that they've been hurt because they're fearing they might lose their job?
AC: It happens. I mean, it happens with players not just with concussions but with injuries in general, because you and I know very well that you get hurt, the next man steps up. And if the next man's playing well (laughs), it's not in your favor.
In Alex Smith's case, it's just a tough deal. [Jim] Harbaugh said he's going with the hot hand, and you gotta respect that.
Injuries in general are just something that comes with this game. I've had my fair share, and it's just a part of life, but in general, as a player, you just gotta do your best to not get hurt and take care of your body. Unfortunately with concussions, they can come at any second.
B/R: You have 77 career sacks, 18 forced fumbles and one safety in your career. Would you say you're satisfied with your accomplishments, or do you ever look back and say, "Man, I really wish I could have done a little bit better?"
AC: Of course, you can always say, especially stat-wise, you always wish you could get more sacks. But, I'm a man of faith, and God blessed me with 77...I'll take what I can get. I'd rather have 77 than none at all.
I mean, 77 sacks in the NFL are definitely hard to come by. Especially, during the games that I've played—unfortunately I've been on teams that haven't won, because winning in the NFL, that helps your productivity. That helps sacks, that helps get push on the quarterback.
When you're losing and you're put in a position where you're behind, the chances of rushing the passer are very slim.
That's something that me, playing with Richard Seymour now, that we're telling the young guys.
In general, I'm very blessed with my career—I'm very blessed to have played this long. 12 years is just a great accomplishment. Especially in my position, because I've had eight head coaches, eight defensive coordinators and have played on four different teams. That's pretty tough in this business.
I just kept priding myself in my work ethic, just kept pushing, continued being a professional—loving the game, enjoying the game and also respecting the game.
B/R: You're with the Oakland Raiders now—a team that's having a rough season. How do you stay positive, and how do you, as a veteran, help the youngsters on the team stay positive?
AC: Staying positive is always a mind set. You don't want to put yourself in the tank or in a hole, because once you're in that hole, it's hard to get out.
This is a business. The eye in the sky don't lie. The cameras are always on you, whether you're on the practice field or whether you're in the game.
The game film is your resume. What are you gonna put on your resume to show people that despite whatever things are going on within an organization—whether successful or unsuccessful—who are you as a player? What's your mentality?
I always tell the younger guys, "Stay positive, keep on working hard and play with a purpose."
B/R: You're going to be a free agent next year. How many more seasons do you have left in your body and your mind?
AC: I feel good. I feel blessed, especially coming from this ruptured quad tendon. I came a long way. Few people know this, but I had my first surgery in December, and not because of the injury, but I had a little bit of a setback where they had to go back in and clean it up.
So, my last surgery was in April. So, I didn't initially start my rehab until April. I went April, May, June, July, so it was a great accomplishment, because I was grinding six days a week, three hours a day, pushing, pulling, prodding, squeezing, straining—I mean, you name it, I was going through everything just to get back on the field.
My wife asked me, "What do you want?" I said, "I know I got a lot left in me. I know I have a lot to bring," so I wanted to keep on pushing, and I'm here now.
So, the question is, "How much more do I have in the tank?"
I just take it one year at a time. I'm feeling good. I pride myself on just taking care of myself with training, conditioning, flexibility—which also has saved my career.
If you go for 10, go for five more, so we'll see how that goes (laughs).