Ravens acquire controversial CB Dale Carter

OWINGS MILLS – Veteran cornerback Dale Carter, a former Pro Bowl selection with a checkered past that includes multiple violations of the NFL substance-abuse policies, agreed to a contract Thursday with the Baltimore Ravens.

Carter, 34, has committed five violations of the league's program compared to four Pro Bowl appearances and missed an entire season four years ago due to repeated transgressions.

He agreed in principle to a one-year contract with the reigning AFC North champions.

Under league policy, any further violations by Carter, including a missed test, would likely necessitate either a year's suspension or a permanent ban.

"It is well known that he is in the program and what stage he is in," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "That is between Dale and the league. We have had communication with the league and there is nothing pending today.

"Dale comes into Baltimore with a clean slate. If he plays and continues to abide by the program that the league has, then he can continue to be a member of the National Football League."

A former first-round draft pick, Carter played the last two seasons with the New Orleans Saints and was last selected to the Pro Bowl in 1997. He'll compete for playing time as a nickel back with veteran Corey Fuller and is unlikely to prompt starting cornerback Gary Baxter to move back to free safety.

"We are always concerned when adding someone to the chemistry of this team," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Dale is a functioning member of the NFL. There were several teams that were interested in him. He has shown that he understands how to handle himself both on and off the field."

Newsome said the Ravens were comfortable with Carter after discussing him with special teams coach Gary Zauner, who was in Minnesota when Carter played for the Vikings, and assistant special teams coach Bennie Thompson, Carter's roommate when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Billick said the team also consulted Carter's brother, receiver Jake Reed, and former Vikings receiver Cris Carter.

"Dale is a real enthusiastic, high-energy guy that brings a lot of confidence and attitude, and he understands what he needs to do," said Mitch Frankel, Carter's agent. "Dale has matured as a person and he's aware of what he needs to do to abide by the rules. He still has great athletic ability for his age and can be a shutdown corner.

"Whether he plays nickel or dime or second corner, they got a veteran that's a very good football player. It's a great opportunity for him."

Carter has participated in only 24 games over the last three seasons. He ended last year on injured reserve with a quadriceps injury after starting eight games.

He signed a seven-year, $28 million contract with New Orleans in 2002, but was suspended again and eventually reinstated. The NFL management council told Carter he must abstain from any use of alcohol.

In 2000, Carter was suspended for 1 ½ years for violating the league's policies.

"I'd be sitting here lying if I said it was not a battle," Carter told New Orleans reporters in 2002. "Life is an everyday battle. I've just got to do the right things. If I do the right things each day, each month, each year, it will get easier."

Carter said two beers prior to a test led to his suspension.

"I blame myself for it because when they say abstinence, they mean abstinence," Carter said.

Carter filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Feb. 15, 2002, listing his debts to more than 20 creditors as $4.9 million and his assets at more than $1 million.

He has 641 career tackles, 24 interceptions and 86 pass deflections.

The Ravens are hoping he'll stay out of trouble and have a productive season.

"We are going to give him an opportunity to be a contributing member of this team both on and off the field," Billick said. "If he embraces that opportunity, I think he will be fine."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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