FOXBORO, Mass. — Andre Carter was understandably excited to be back in Foxboro on Wednesday afternoon.
The 13-year veteran is back with the Patriots after spending a year in Oakland and a month and a half waiting for a call from New England. The defensive end said it was “Patriots or retirement.” He wasn’t interested in signing with another team.
Carter worked out with the team on Sept. 9. Since then, he’s started thinking about his life after football. He’s started making connections to begin a broadcasting career.
But for now, Carter will give it one last shot in the NFL with the Patriots. He could even be ready to play this week against the Dolphins.
“I hope so,” Carter said, laughing. “I feel pretty good. I feel good. I feel — moving around. Coaches been — it’ll be their call on number of snaps I can play. I’m just out there having fun. It’s great to be back. It’s a great town, lot of good memories, hopefully a lot more memories to come. This is it, man. At the end of the day, for me personally, I want to retire as a Patriot.”
Carter said the defense looks a little different this season, but the terminology is the same. The Patriots were typically in a 4-3 base when Carter was with the team. This year, and especially since Vince Wilfork went down for the season, New England has been running a lot of looks in a 3-4.
“Some things are different,” Carter said. “The terminology is the same. But as far as the scheme itself, there’s a few tweaks. That’s the NFL in general. You can’t always run the same scheme year after year. You gotta constantly modify, because that’s the only way you’re gonna get better and make plays.”
The year Carter was brought in, training camp was shortened due to the NFL lockout. The defensive line underwent many changes as the team brought in Carter, Mark Anderson and Shaun Ellis, so it appeared the defense was simplified. That was not the case to start the 2013 season. With so many players back, the Patriots were able to get more complex. Now that Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are gone for the season, though, it may need to be simplified again.
Carter’s only season with the Patriots ended in disappointing fashion in 2011. He was successful, recording 10 sacks during the regular season, but he suffered a quad injury during Week 15 and missed New England’s playoff run, which included a loss in Super Bowl XLVI. He said it wasn’t the way he wanted the season to end, but he still had plenty of good memories about being with the Patriots.
Carter could serve a number of roles with the Patriots as either a third-down edge rusher, 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker, but the Patriots could also utilize him in a relatively new position for the team. Last year, Jermaine Cunningham started playing some defensive tackle on third down. This year, Chandler Jones has been used in that role. Carter has some experience playing inside.
“I did a little bit throughout my career in more of the bear front, or similar to what Chandler Jones does,” Carter said. “I admire watching him. He’s very versatile. But I think in general this defense is versatile, so we can create a lot of mismatch, which is good. Create plays and create opportunities so, to hopefully put some touchdowns on the board.”
The bear front Carter refers to is kind of a hybrid 3-4/4-3 where the defensive line is constructed more like a three-man front. A fourth player can either stand up or have his hand in the dirt at the seven-technique position. Rob Ninkovich and Jones have played in that role in the past.
A lot has changed since Carter was in New England in 2011. Surprisingly, among the defenders on the Patriots’ current 53-man roster, only five players are carryovers from that 2011 team: Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty. Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski also played defensive snaps that season.
So, Carter may not recognize many faces in the Patriots’ locker room, but this is the situation he wanted to be in this season. With so many injuries on the defensive side of the ball, bringing in another veteran leader can only hope solidify the defense.