Cris Carter has said the Dolphins signed him with the idea that he could make a big difference down the stretch, and the veteran wide receiver is ready to do just that.

Carter will make his return to action on Monday night against the Bears after missing four games because of a kidney ailment that landed him in the hospital.

The future Hall of Famer has played only one game for the Dolphins, and it wasn't the type of Dolphins debut Carter had in mind.

But there's reason to be excited about what his addition could mean to the team.

"I will be ready," Carter said Wednesday. "I am more ready now than the Green Bay game because of not only the running, but the weightlifting. I have been able to do more pure conditioning compared to then when I was just trying to make it through practice and I really couldn't do much as far as weight training.

"That is probably the biggest difference the last couple of weeks. I feel a lot stronger and feel I can do the things I am used to doing."

Coach Dave Wannstedt already has made it clear that Carter will be coming off the bench on Monday night, splitting time with Dedric Ward as the slot receivers.

But the feeling here is that Carter will be back in the starting lineup soon, perhaps as early as the Dec. 15 game against the Oakland Raiders.

For the time being, Carter is just looking to get worked into the offense.

"I don't think I will be as rusty as I was earlier in the year because even the Jets week I did practice and caught a lot of balls," Carter said. "The next week I was out. The last two weeks I have been catching a lot of balls."

Carter has had a lot of success through the years against the Bears, but he says his familiarity with Monday night's opponent won't necessarily make things easier for him.

"I don't think so," he said. "I don't even really think about it that way. These are big games. I am very familiar with their personnel and very familiar with their schemes.

"Does it make it easier? I have more mental notes already in my head compared to what I would normally have. I know their people and what they like to do. They have a very, very good defense and are a very physical, well-coached team. Those are the things you know about when you play the Bears."

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