Jason Carter wasn't a name at the radar of most Vikings fans even after the team signed him as a rookie free agent in May. Then it happened. The preseason.
After spring and early summer camps in which Carter didn't really stand out, suddenly the pads went on for training camp and the games started in the preseason. That's when Carter really started looking good.
"My expectations coming in were just to work hard and earn some of the older guys' respect, show them that I can play football. Show them that I can make plays when it's my turn to make plays," Carter told Viking Update in the middle of August.
He did that and more. As a receiver, Carter was the team's leading yardage gainer in the preseason with 155 yards on four catches, including a 77-yard touchdown that was put right on the money from second-round draft pick Tarvaris Jackson.
It was then that Carter announced his "7-11" proclamation – a reference to Jackson and Carter's jersey numbers – saying it was because he was open all the time. But Carter isn't a boastful sort, so when the preseason was finished and it was time for the Vikings to trim their roster to 53 players, it was a surprise to nearly everyone that Carter wasn't among the final five receivers the Vikings currently have on their roster.
Count Carter among those surprised.
"I was real surprised. I couldn't believe it, but things happen," he said this week, back as a member of their practice squad. "They felt like that was a decision they had to make. All you can do is just go with it, keep on working hard and use it as motivation to get better."
He was told he would be brought back on the practice squad and would have a chance at the 53-man roster eventually because it's a long season.
But, despite the fact that he went undrafted and led the team in preseason receiving yards, he was also viewed as a leading candidate to return punts, especially with Mewelde Moore, last year's main punt returner, missing three preseason games to injury.
"I don't think it was particularly focused on the kick returner situation. It's just what's best for our football team and keeping some other good football players at different positions," head coach Brad Childress said when asked to explain the release of Carter and undrafted rookie running back Wendell Mathis, who returned kickoffs in the preseason. "You'd like to keep everybody, but the numbers mandate that somebody has to go on the practice squad. Those guys had good training camps, but again, we need to keep our team strong in some other positions as well."
Which leaves Carter to wonder – "I was upset, but I never doubted myself because I know God is on my side," he said – and use the move as motivation.
"I always approach everything with a chip on my shoulder – always. From Day One, I came in here and I was upset that I didn't get drafted. I used that and now this is just something else to use, and you'd best believe I'm going to use it and I'm going to get better from it," Carter said.
"I'm going to be the first one out here and the last one out here every day. Whichever way they need me to play, that's what I'm going to do."
As a member of the practice squad, Carter can be called up to the active roster at any point during the season. He could also sign with another team's active roster if they were looking for a young receiver/returner who showed potential in the preseason, and he said there was some interest in him in the 24 hours he was placed on waivers, a procedure he had to go through so other teams had an opportunity to sign him before he was signed to the Vikings practice squad.
"From what I know from my agent (there was interest)," Carter said. "I don't know what's going to happen. Anything could still happen. I would like to be here in Minnesota. The fans were great and they got behind me. I know this offense, there is good team chemistry here, there are no egos – guys just want to be better here. So I would like to be here, I would like to be part of this active 53."
"Hopefully the coaches see that the guy's still working hard, that he's a fighter and we're going to bring him up."
Carter Using Release as Motivation
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