Long climb back for Carter

No doubt about it – the road from No. 1 draft pick to Packer training camp hopeful has been an extremely rocky one for running back Ki-Jana Carter.<p>

The ride got even rougher earlier this week when Carter failed to complete the four 300-yard shuttle runs assigned to him during physical testing at training camp. Carter also struggled with short pass routes and other running drills, according to reports.

"I know I'm a little rusty," Carter said. "Once I start feeling confident I can show more of what I can do.

"Right now I just want to open some eyes up. I won't lie, I'd like to be a starter, but right now I knew what my role is."

That role so far is vying to be Ahman Green's backup. Carter is battling Rondell Mealey and Herbert "Whisper" Goodman, as well as free agents Jason Brookins and Tony Fisher for the honors.

Carter has something else to prove. He must demonstrate that last year, one of the most successful and consistent of his injury-plagued career, which has spanned seven years, but includes only five in which he could even attempt to play.

"My injuries on the field were freak accidents," Carter said. "Unfortunately they were season-ending injuries."

Carter said that there have been times when the injuries got a firm hold on his psyche.

"First couple days after each injury, I thought ‘why me?'" Carter said. "If anyone says they don't, they're lying. But it comes to a point where you turn negative into a positive. I want to go out there and prove to myself that I can do it."

The former first overall selection in the NFL draft out of Penn State by the Bengals in 1995, Carter played four seasons in Cincinnati (1996-99) after sitting out his rookie, 1995 campaign upon suffering season-ending knee injury in preseason contest. After taking off the 2000 season to rehab a knee injury suffered in 1999, Carter spent the 2001 season as a backup with the Washington Redskins, playing in 14 games and demonstrating skills that indicate he remains a viable competitor in the NFL.

Carter's quest got a good start in 2001. He accumulated 308 rushing yards with a 4.9 average; in 1997 he totaled 464 yards on 128 carries.

John Schneider, the Packers' personnel analyst to the general manager, witnessed Carter's performance first-hand as Washington's vice president of player personnel last season. He sees the potential in the running back.

"He's overcome a lot of injuries and he proved that last season," Schneider said. "He's a tough, talented runner with great hands and speed. There is a reason he was the number one pick in the draft.

"He's just given us another proven veteran runner. He has a lot to prove because of his injuries, but he's hungry to do that," Schneider said. "Combine that with talent and you really have something."

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