So much for retirement. No one should be surprised that Cris Carter put his hiatus from the NFL on hold shortly after the Miami Dolphins came calling. Carter, after all, had tried hard to catch on with a handful of teams during the offseason, only to have the door shut in his face.
Then and only then did Carter announce his retirement and join HBO's "Inside the NFL." But the Dolphins kept Carter's number on speed dial, and when injuries mounted in their receiving corps they gave him a call.
It did not take the NFL's second all-time leader in receptions and touchdowns long to say yes to the Dolphins' offer of a one-year deal that will pay him $550,000, with another $700,000 possible through incentives.
The Dolphins initially contacted Carter on Oct. 16 about returning, but Carter claims he wasn't too hot on the idea. Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, also a member of the "Inside the NFL" crew, had other ideas.
"Marino's crazy," said Carter, who tried to talk Marino into joining the Vikings in 2000. "I had squashed the whole idea — ‘I'm not going to do it.' Danny and I were getting ready to go into the studio, and I tell him, and he just goes ballistic — ‘You've got to do it. You can still play. It's a great situation for you.'"
The situation is great because playing for the AFC East-leading Dolphins (5-2) presents Carter with a chance to earn a Super Bowl ring, something he has been unable to do during his 15-year career. "Besides championships, there's nothing I could do that would quench my thirst," said Carter, who turns 37 next month. "This is not an individual thing. It's more about the opportunity with this team. … If they were 3-4, I wouldn't be here."
Where Carter will be for his first game as a Dolphin will be a familiar spot — Lambeau Field. The Dolphins have a bye this week, and Miami's next game will be Monday night, Nov. 4 against the Packers.
Carter, of course, made frequent appearances at Lambeau during his 12 seasons with the Vikings. Although he had many great moments during that time — he holds most of the Vikings' receiving records — by last season things had soured with Carter.
In fact, even as the Vikings struggle this season many players talk about how well this group of players gets along and really likes each other. That is a clear shot at Carter, who thought of himself as the leader of the locker room but was actually considered a pain by many of his teammates.
One of those teammates was Randy Moss, whom Carter was considered to have mentored. Their relationship now seems strained at best. Asked about Carter's return, Moss said: "I love that. I think that a lot of people he's made comments about, their football teams are going to love it, too."
One of those teams will be the Vikings, who will play host to the Dolphins on Dec. 21.
Although several Vikings players might have had to suppress a snicker when Carter signed, Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt and his players don't seemed concerned about Carter's presence in the locker room. "Even if he's just on the sideline hanging out, he'll be a big plus," linebacker Zach Thomas said. "He'll bring some leadership and teach our guys some things."
The situation is made a bit more interesting because Carter is replacing injured receiver Oronde Gadsden, whose career as a Dolphin is almost certainly finished. Gadsden opted to have surgery on a torn ligament in his left wrist rather than continue playing and having surgery later. The receiver will be a free agent this offseason, and his agent wanted an extension in return for postponing surgery.
"We were worlds and miles and miles apart," Dolphins senior vice president Rick Spielman said.
Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison was among those who spoke up for Gadsden. "You have a guy who you say is one of your veteran leaders," Madison said. "For something like this to happen is rough."
Safety Brock Marion and receiver James McKnight also expressed disappointment about the situation.
Said Carter: "I'm not replacing (Gadsden). His situation and the way it occurred is absent of me. I wasn't responsible for him getting hurt. He got hurt. … They say he needs surgery, which will make him out for the remainder of the season. Now they have to bring somebody in. Here I come."
As for his television career, Carter is really just slowing things down. HBO said he will continue to make appearances on the show via satellite and will remain under contract.
"HBO is happy to accommodate Cris in this truly unique situation as he goes from behind the desk into the huddle," said Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports. "We look forward to maintaining our relationship with Cris and keeping him a part of ‘Inside the NFL.' We plan on having Cris on Thursday's edition and we will figure out the rest of his schedule as we go along."
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