Carter: Washington just wasn't right fit

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Carter: Washington just wasn't right fit

FOXBORO -- It was a simple question.

After recording nine sacks in his first 10 games with the Patriots, Andre Carter was asked if he has been double-teamed more in the last two weeks against the Eagles and the Colts, in which he recorded no sacks and had only two solo tackles.

Carter gave a simple answer.

"Yup!" he said, smiling ear-to-ear. "You know the answer to that question."

And why wouldn't teams double-up on the Patriots' defensive end? Being brought back into a 4-3 scheme, Carter feels more comfortable than he did in his final season with the Washington Redskins last year.

That relationship ended in March, when Carter was released before he entered the final year of his contract with the team. Carter said the break-up was mutual. The Redskins had changed to a 3-4 defense, and both sides knew that Carter wasn't best suited as an outside linebacker.

"He wanted an opportunity to go someplace," said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan in a conference call on Wednesday. "And we had talked about his ability to rush the quarterback. We were running a 3-4 defensive scheme and using him more as an outside linebacker. And we knew we couldn't pay him what he was making. But we knew there would be somebody out there that would pay him what he deserved, or at least, what we thought he deserved. And we let him go, just because he was such a class guy."

"In the end, I knew it just wasn't right for me," said Carter on Wednesday, as he prepares for Sunday's game with his old Redskins team, in Washington. "And they knew that too, but they appreciated my hard work. I never complained. I just went out there day by day, and at the end, we shook hands, and it was a mutual agreement on both terms.

"Last year I played more of the linebacker-type position in the 3-4," he said. "I covered a lot more during that time last year. But now I'm just more of a defensive end, putting your hand in the dirt, and rock and roll."

Carter finished last season with only three sacks and 25 solo tackles in 16 games. He's already surpassed those totals in 12 games with New England, recording 29 solo tackles and nine sacks.

Not bad for a guy who thought his NFL career was over after he parted ways with Washington, before signing with the Patriots in August.

"Everything that I've done has been such a blessing, to be here and get picked up," said Carter. "Because I tell everybody, I thought I was actually done, coming into this season. So just to be productive and just to have fun and play the game that I've been blessed to play for so many years. It's just a wonderful feeling.

"Because of what was going on with the lockout, and vets not getting picked up, it was definitely a long shot. But God has definitely blessed me and my family, I'm enjoying every moment."

Bill Belichick saw that the 3-4 wasn't a good fit for Carter, and brought him to New England because he thought he'd be a good fit in their 4-3 scheme.

"We need players that can play and hes done a good job of that," said Belichick. "Certainly bringing a professional approach to the game, thats great too. Hes done a good job at everything. Hes very attentive. Hes in excellent physical condition, hes out there, he takes a lot of plays, he plays them hard in practice and the games. Hes very professional in his approach.

"Weve asked him to do some different things, hes embraced those and tried the things that he knows how to do. The things that are a little bit new or different for him, hes tried hard to learn and understand how we want those things done. Very unselfish player that works hard and is consistent. You get the same effort out of him every day, seven days a week, whatever this is, 16 games or however many weve played. Hes really the same dependable player on a daily basis with a lot of consistency. All those are strengths. I dont know how you rank them, but theyre all important. He does a great job at all of them. Hes been such a pleasure to have on this team and hes added a lot to our football team in a lot of different ways."

Tom Brady echoed the same sentiment.

"Hes got a great attitude, really professional," said Brady. "You see the way he takes care of himself before practice, after practice. He's always out there doing extra conditioning. He's really a true professional, and thats why he's been around. That's why hes been productive really everywhere he's been. Its great to have him on the team."

After a few weeks in which he hasn't been quite as effective as his first nine games of the season, Carter now finds himself in an emotional game, walking into his old team's building.

He admitted, on Wednesday that leaving Washington was a risk, but said, "I had to go upon my faith in my ability to know that that particular fit just didn't work for what I did. I did my due diligence last year, as far as learning a new position."

And he's doing more than just his "due diligence" this season with the Patriots. He's back in his comfort zone as a defensive end, and he's having the type of season he once thought he'd never get the opportunity to have again.

Now, heading into Week 14, he's being double-teamed for his bounce-back performance. And he's handling it the Patriot way.

"As a player, you try to find a way to make those adjustments, but I can't get frustrated," said Carter. "I just think I'm just happy to see other guys playing well, and that's what you do. You celebrate with your teammates, because this is a team sport."

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Scott Zolak said on Pregame Live Sunday that the Patriots are better-suited to survive a season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski than they were a season ago. 

Zolak said that given the health of Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and the signing of Chris Hogan, the offense has more stability at other positions to make up for the loss of Gronkowski, whose season is over due to back surgery. As for the tight end position, Zolak said he feels the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett to protect themselves against scenarios like the one they currently face. 

“This offseason they [acquired] Martellus Bennett, I think for this very reason: to prepare for what really happens year after year, is some sort of issue comes up with Rob Gronkowski and you have to play without him,” Zolak said.

Bennett was questionable with an ankle injury for this week’s game, but is expected to play. Asked about the health of Bennett, Zolak said that he believes the tight end is good to play, but that his importance to the team with Gronkowski out means the Pats will need to be careful. 

“I think he’s healthy enough to get through about 30-35 snaps,” Zolak said. “They’ve got to balance him now moving forward.” 

Ryan open to changing role: 'It's not track and field where it's all about you'

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Ryan open to changing role: 'It's not track and field where it's all about you'

FOXBORO -- Logan Ryan goes into Sunday's game with the Rams coming off of arguably his two best games of the 2016 season. Coinciding with those performances against the 49ers and Jets has been a more permanent shift for the fourth-year corner into the slot. 

Ryan began the year as an every-down player, playing as one of two starting corners along with Malcolm Butler. But in Week 7, his playing time dipped. He was on the field for just 31 of 73 snaps against the Steelers as Eric Rowe took over as a starter. 

Belichick admitted that mid-season -- with Ryan, Rowe and Justin Coleman all vying for snaps -- the team was in a "transition period" in terms of figuring out how to deploy its corners.

"We were kind of in a little bit of a transition earlier in the year with the secondary, and Logan in particular, outside, inside," Belichick said. "I think the last couple of weeks he’s really given us a good level of communication, of run force. He’s made several tackles in the running game, plays off of the edge. But again the overall communication and consistency in there has been good. We’ll try to build on that. So I think that’s been a positive for us here over the past couple of weeks."

It's been a shift for Ryan, who helped the Patriots lock down receivers like Houston's DeAndre Hopkins and Denver's Demaryius Thomas last season on the outside. But when asked about his changing role during the week, he said he welcomed it.

"It's cool with me, man," he said. "I'll take whatever they give me. And I'm trying to do it at a high-level. The thing about being inside is there is a lot more communication that doesn't go noticed.  I'm closer to [Dont'a] Hightower, closer to Devin [McCourty], getting things out to the corner, getting things out to the front. 

"I just love the freedom in there to blitz, to cover, to drop in zone, read the quarterback, cover guys in the slot. I just think the versatility in there works well for what I try to do in being versatile. It's fun."

It's not a totally foreign gig for Ryan. He's seen practice time at safety, in the slot, and outside since arriving to the Patriots as a third-round pick in 2016. But in order to pick up a few tricks of the trade inside this season, he's studied tape of Arizona's Tyrann Mathieu and Denver's Chris Harris -- two of the best slot corners in the league. 

Whatever he's doing is working. Ryan has seen 11 targets over the last two weeks. Though seven of those have been caught, they've gone for only 46 yards. He also has three pass breakups in that span, including two against San Francisco when he was tasked with matching up with slot man Jeremy Kerley. 

Though he may not be seeing close to 100 percent of the team's defensive snaps as he was earlier this season, he said he's working to be as effective as possible whenever he is called upon. 

"I'm a player, man. I've got to play when they ask me to play," he said. "The coaches have been doing it for a long time at a high level. It's their job to figure out the snaps and how to use the personnel. I'm just trying to be as versatile as possible to get as many snaps as possible. When I'm asked to go out there, I just try to make it a positive and go out there and be disruptive and make plays on the ball and get the ball-carrier down. I'll let the coaches worry about that. I just got to control what I can control."

On his fluctuating workload he added: "It can be challenging but we play a team sport. I've played team sports my whole life, and they are all about sacrifice. It's not track and field where it's all about you. It's about what's best for the team and doing what's best for the team. Some days that might be more, some days that might be less, but at the end of the day it's about getting wins and trying to compete at a championship level, which I've fortunately been able to do in the past and I want to continue to do. There's no better feeling in the end when you know that you sacrificed for the team and the team counts on you as well."

Belichick left open the possibility that Ryan could shift back to the outside, but it sounds like the change could be one that the Patriots roll with for the stretch run. 

"I think he’s really done a good job in there," Belichick said, "of playing not only the slot position but again the communication, the decision making, some of the adjustments that come from that inside spot that have to relate to linebackers, sometimes the end, certainly the safeties. There are a lot of moving parts in there that a good experienced player at that position . . . it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. It doesn’t show up necessarily on film but in terms of the overall operation, the overall communication and smoothness of the defensive play and help everybody else play better. It’s definitely there and he’s done a good job of that."

Ryan and Belichick spoke about Ryan's playing-time situation as it was being altered, and just as the coach appreciates his player's openness to the move -- which Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran noted here -- the player understands what it means to be a professional and focus on that which he can control. 

Facing the prospect of unrestricted free agency, Ryan's future is somewhat uncertain. But he indicated that all he can do in order to help himself is what he's asked. 

"Show up to work every day and figure out how to get better, figure out how to help the team,  figure out how to maintain my job," Ryan said of his approach. "We've got a lot of young talented players in our room, a lot of young talent in the league, and the Patriots are always a team that's trying to improve and not settle at all. So I'm just trying to do what I have to do to play here and thrive here, and to help the team win, and to help my family and at the same."