"It's quite serious, very serious to the degree that it was life-threatening," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
Doctors discovered the ailment a few weeks ago after Carter experienced severe discomfort during workouts at his Houston home. It could very well lead to his eventual retirement. "The doctors told me I was the luckiest person in the world," said Carter, who spent a week in the hospital. "I didn't think it was that serious. I thank God I'm here today. "I was working out at home and my side was hurting real bad. That third day I fell out and I just couldn't breathe. I was in so much pain I went to the emergency room. It kind of scared me. Of course, I'm going to miss football." With Carter's loss and the possible prolonged absence of Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister due to a contract dispute, Corey Fuller will likely shift back to cornerback from a planned move to safety and Billick indicated that the team could add another defensive back as soon as today.
Fuller, 33, and Gary Baxter, who expects to be on the field today following abdominal hernia surgery that kept him out of minicamp drills, figure to be the Ravens' starting cornerbacks for the immediate future.
"I was looking forward to going to safety, but I'm a professional," Fuller said. "I'll do what's best for the team.
"I was thinking I was probably going to have to go back and from safety to corner, but now I'll just stay at corner. I just hope that whatever is wrong with Dale gets better."
Meanwhile, the Ravens are prepared to wait a while for McAlister's arrival.
McAlister, 27, has yet to sign his one-year $7.1 million tender and is seeking a long-term contract similar to the $63 million deal signed by Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey that included an $18 million signing bonus. McAlister isn't required to report because he hasn't signed the tender and technically could miss the entire preseason without incurring any fines. Billick reiterated that he expects McAlister to eventually report in time to be physically prepared for the Sept. 12 season-opener against the Cleveland Browns. McAlister's agent, Mitch Frankel, didn't return a telephone call.
"Everyone has to do what they have to do for their family," Baxter said. "Whenever Chris gets back, I look forward to being the best cornerback tandem in the league."
Carter had appeared in four Pro Bowls and had previous stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. He's a five-time violator of the NFL substance-abuse policies.
"I'm going to miss football, but I've put things in perspective," Carter said. "I've got to get healthy and well first before I think of anything else. I'm just happy I'm here, and I've told everybody I know that I love them."
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.