Carter thrilled to be alive, back in football

OWINGS MILLS – Dale Carter is doubly grateful. Most importantly, the Baltimore Ravens' veteran cornerback survived a potential life-threatening blood clot in his lungs that sidelined him for the entire season on the non-football illness list. Now, Carter, 35, is back at the Ravens' training complex, training in anticipation of a possible role as the team's nickel back that hinges on his health and the undetermined status of Deion Sanders.

"I don't worry about nothing anymore, not after what I went through this last year with such a close call," Carter said. "I'm just happy to be alive. Football is a bonus on top of that. That was real scary."

After Carter experienced severe discomfort during workouts at his Houston home weeks before training camp in July, he "fell out" but managed to drive himself to the emergency room.

Doctors discovered the ailment, and informed Carter that if he had sought treatment only a few hours later he likely would have died. Today, Carter has a clean bill of health after being prescribed blood thinners for nearly seven months.

"The doctors told me I was the luckiest person in the world," said Carter, who spent a week in the hospital. "I was so close to dying, and that makes you appreciate life so much more.

"You don't take the simple things for granted. I just thank God all the time that I'm alive."

Because Carter was placed on the non-football illness list prior to the regular season, his one-year contract carries over to 2005 because he didn't play at all last year instead of becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Secondary coach Johnnie Lynn said he anticipates Carter being in the defensive game plan behind starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle.

"I'm just glad he's over his illness because the No. 1 thing is the health factor," Lynn said. "For Dale to be able to participate in the off-season program is very good. He was just a hiccup away from not being here at all, but it's all cleared up."

Sanders, who will turn 38 in August, hasn't indicated what he'll do after being limited to nine games last season with foot and hamstring injuries. The Ravens have extended an open invitation to Sanders and are optimistic that he might return.

"We're waiting to see what happens with Prime, but if Prime is here, go ahead, come out in four-wide against us," Lynn said.

Entering his 12th season, Carter has appeared in four Pro Bowls and previous stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.

With this medical emergency and a history of violations of the NFL substance-abuse policies behind him, Carter is looking forward to this season in whatever role he's assigned.

"I'm full-speed ahead," Carter said. "I'm just ready to start playing. I'm so happy. I can't wait to get back on the football field. It's been too long."

NOTE: T.J. McCreight, who has been the Ravens' national scout for the past two years, attended the Cleveland Browns' minicamp last weekend, a Browns team official confirmed Monday.

A resident of Willoughby, Ohio, McCreight is expected to join Browns general manager Phil Savage's personnel department. The Browns said that no announcement regarding McCreight is imminent.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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