Andre Carter didn't expect to be here at this point.
By 'here,' he wasn't referring to New England, but the NFL in general. During the locked-out offseason, when free agency was postponed and uncertainty ruled, the 11-year veteran defensive end resigned himself to the fact that his days in the league were over.
Yet, here it is December, and he's leading the Patriots in sacks with nine, having rejuvenated a career that began as the seventh overall pick in the 2001 Draft.
"I told everybody, I thought I was actually done, coming into this season," Carter revealed today. "Just to be productive and have fun and play the game I've played for so many years, it's a wonderful feeling."
Was he unsure of his future because he felt teams had given up on him, after his first five years in San Francisco, and the last five in Washington?
"I don't know. That's something I never really asked. I'm not sure if people counted me out, but personally, because of what was going on with the lockout and vets not getting picked up, it was perhaps a long shot. God has definitely blessed me and my family and I'm enjoying the moment.
And though it's only been a few months, Carter insists he feels right at home in New England.
"I think I've been comfortable since Day 1. I take every day as if it's my last. Nothing's ever promised, so, I just live in the moment. I have a great group of guys that I work with. Being in this game 11 years [in the NFL], that's definitely an accomplishment. Every day I come in here, I'm thankful."
This weekend, Carter will travel with his Patriots teammates to his former home in Washington to face the Redskins. He admitted it will probably feel "a little bit" strange to be on the visitors' sideline at FedEx Field.
"But I know they expect me to give them my best shot and vice versa," added Carter. "So, it's going to be a great battle.
"I'm going to go out there just like any game and prepare for another great opponent. There are guys I established a working relationship with … I was there five years, been through the highs and lows, so, you have the memories. Overall, you take the good with the bad, but I had a great time in D.C."
Only a year removed from being a Redskin, Carter nevertheless downplayed the impact he could have on helping his Patriots teammates prepare for Washington this week.
"Honestly, every year is always something different. You can only provide so much information. I'm not sure how much valuable information I can give them," he chuckled.
However, he did offer one nugget about quarterback Rex Grossman.
"Grossman's going to throw that ball deep. He definitely takes some chances, he's a gun slinger … we have to avoid the deep ball."
If the Patriots are lucky enough to come out with a win in Washington, Carter promised he wouldn't rub it in on his former teammates.
"Never that … I never gloat," he laughed. "Just try to go out there and put on a good performance."
Jones-ing for playing time
Newcomer Nate Jones, signed a week ago, played all but a handful of defensive snaps last Sunday against the Colts. Quite the crash course for the eight-year veteran defensive back, who saw action as both a safety and slot corner.
"We just prepare for the game in a certain direction, but you never know how it's going to go," said Jones. "It went in a direction where I ended up being out there a lot."
Apparently, learning what he needed to get on the field proved easier for Jones than learning all of his new teammates' names, but he said today he's making progress on both fronts.
"Simple things, like learning all the guys' names ... being on time to everything, knowing where I have to be. These are all the things that come with coming to a new place. You just take it one step at a time … A week under the belt, it's a big difference."
For details on today's Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.