Carr: "I think I can make a big impact"

OWINGS MILLS -- Chris Carr scoured the NFL in search of a football team that believed he was more than a returner and could also contribute as a cornerback.

Carr found that commitment from the Baltimore Ravens, who signed him to a two-year, $5 million contract to compete for playing time behind starting cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington as well as return punts and kickoffs.

After years of majoring in special teams and minoring in reserve cornerback duty, Carr, who played last season for the Tennessee Titans, is hoping for a more substantial role on defense as he renews ties with Washington and secondary coach Chuck Pagano after collaborating with them years ago with the Oakland Raiders.

"I think I can make a big impact," Carr told Baltimore reporters in a Wednesday conference call. "I think if you talk to Fabian Washington and Chuck Pagano, I think they know what I can do. I feel like I have a lot of abilities in the defensive backfield and that I just haven't gotten the opportunity that I wanted in my career. I've had a lot of great players in front of me.

"I think I've played well every single time I've gotten the chance, whether it be a nickel, corner or safety. I take pride in everything I do. I always want to be better. I don't want to be known as just a special-teams player, because I know I can help the team out on defense. So, definitely, I'm going to take defense just as serious as special teams. Hopefully, I can help the team out on both."

Carr, 25, chose the Ravens over the Pittsburgh Steelers as Baltimore topped the Steelers' financial offer. He also visited the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions.

Ultimately, the Ravens felt like the right place for him.

"Just seeing those black jerseys and Ray Lewis and that defense play, I always had a feeling about Baltimore that it would be cool to play for them," Carr said. "Baltimore was always intriguing. It was always one of those situations where I wished that would work out for me to play there because I thought that was the best fit for me."

A major reason why Carr chose the Ravens was his background with Pagano as well as Washington's endorsement of the Ravens' organization.

"Chuck Pagano is the best defensive backs coach that I've ever had," Carr said. "He's going to keep me on my toes. He's a cool guy and he gets along with everybody."

Pressed into full-time action at cornerback in a game last season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carr was targeted immediately with several passes thrown in his direction.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Reno, Nev., native responded, though, by recording a career-high four pass deflections and intercepting a pass.

"I think it was big because it shows that I'm a consummate pro," Carr said. "I'm going to be a pro, and I'm going to make sure that I'm going to study. I'm going to make sure that my footwork, my technique is on point, because if I do get called upon in a game, then I'm going to be able to excel.

"If you're not prepared to play, they'll probably just throw somebody else in there to make a lot of plays. I think that opened up some eyes that, 'Hey, this guy has played. This guy is good at corner.'"

Last season, Carr ranked fourth in the NFL in kickoff returns with a 28.1 average.

Carr has 82 career tackles, a dozen pass deflections, five fumble recoveries and two interceptions, returning one errant Ben Roethlisberger pass 100 yards for a touchdown while Carr was in Oakland.

"Chris is a versatile player who gives us quality depth in the secondary," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "He has coverage skills, and he is a sound tackler willing to come up and take on the backs and the linemen blocking for those guys. He has shown that he can be a viable kick returner, and we look forward to seeing what he can do there for us."

A former undrafted free agent from Boise State, Carr arrived in the NFL with little fanfare as he received a $5,000 signing bonus.

Eventually, Carr established himself as the Raiders' all-time leader with 201 kickoff returns and 4,841 kickoff return yards for a 24.1 average.

"It feels gratifying," Carr said. 'I'm the type of guy that likes earning stuff. I told the Ravens what I told every team on my visits, I don't want anyone to hand me anything. I expect to be able to compete. If I'm the best guy for the job, then I want to be able to play.

"So, it's just humble beginnings. When you're undrafted, you can't just play well at practice. You have to play exceptional to get noticed. It's always kept me hungry. I'm very thankful for the road that I took."

That NFL journey has mostly centered on returns. With the Ravens, he's expected to become their primary returner over former third-round draft pick Yamon Figurs.

In a 2006 game against Baltimore, Carr set a career-high with 206 kickoff return yards on seven returns for a 29.1 average.

"I think my rookie year I was kind of naive," Carr said. "College was just so easy and preseason was just so easy for me. I didn't realize how intense the regular season is. People were flying down, hitting me in the mouth and I wasn't getting as much space.

"I think every year that I've learned different things. In Tennessee, I was really comfortable and learned some different things. Last year, I think that was the big diference where I had the best season returning in my career."

NOTES: The Ravens made it official Wednesday, announcing that veteran cornerback Samari Rolle is no longer on the team. The former Pro Bowl selection's contract was terminated after starting for Baltimore for four seasons, creating $4.1 million in salary-cap room.

"When we talk about the type of person we want as a Raven, we talk about a player like Samari," Newsome said. "He's smart, tough, works hard and made us a better team. When you talk about a player having courage, you point to Samari and what he has fought through the last few years. He's a special guy. There will be other teams who will make a run at him now, but we have not closed the door on bringing him back to the Ravens at some point." ...

Philadelphia Eagles free agent tight end L.J. Smith is scheduled to take a physical with the Ravens on Thursday and could finalize a one-year, $1.5 million contract in the next few days. He could provide insurance in case starting tight end Todd Heap gets hurt and would complement him in the passing game in double tight end situations.

Former St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and former top overall pick from Ohio State, is scheduled to begin his visit to Baltimore today at the team's training complex.

If signed, Pace could replace Willie Anderson at right tackle. Pace's physical will be extremely important because of his extensive recent injury history.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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