NFL journeyman Carpenter looks to bring best to Patriots

NFL journeyman Carpenter looks to bring best to Patriots
June 14, 2012, 6:38 am
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FOXBORO -- You probably don't know much about Bobby Carpenter the linebacker.
New England is his fifth team in what will be his seventh year in the league.
"You understand a lot about the NFL," he said this week, of his journeyman role. "You know a lot of people, you know a lot of systems -- which I think helps you out in your preparation. It just kind of gives you a healthy respect for the league and the game and how tough it is to make it."
What you do know about Carpenter wouldn't make him proud.
Maybe you saw that 2008 episode of "Hard Knocks" when Cowboys teammate and right tackle Marc Columbo dubbed him "Barbie Carpenter." Columbo had beaten up on him all practice.
Maybe you remember Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff raising his voice when Dolphins STC John Bonamego was fired. "It's interesting that there was one particular guy that was involved in two of those major breakdowns," Westhoff said. "Frankly, I don't think he could play. I don't want the guy either." Review of the film revealed Carpenter was on both plays.
And you might have heard the term "bust" used in reference to the former first round pick. Several teams had been interested in the Ohio State product. Teams like the Patriots.
"This is one of the places I came up and visited," Carpenter recalls. "Had a good connection here, really liked it. Just ended up going someplace else, but this was a place that was interested in me."
He had met with the lot: linebackers coach Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Bill Belichick.
Dallas snapped him up with its 18 overall selection in that 2006 NFL draft (New England picked at 21). What the Cowboys got in return was three starts, 96 total tackles, and 3.5 sacks in four years.
Carpenter was traded to the Rams and released at the end of training camp. Miami picked him up for the first five games of 2010 then cut him.
That's when the Lions gave him new life.
Never a fit in a 3-4 defense, Carpenter appeared more comfortable in Detroit's 4-3 scheme. There he could read and react, use his quickness, know he'd be protected. He played all 16 games in his second year, first full season in Detroit. An interception of old pal Tony Romo and 34-yard touchdown return in 2011 must have been sweet.
Yet he still played less than a quarter of the defensive snaps.
Despite taking steps forward, Carpenter couldn't shore up a starter spot. The Lions dragged their feet when free agency rolled around. New England saw an opening in April and pounced; Carpenter had to pack his bags yet again.
He's dismissive of stability's elusiveness.
"It's not too bad. Each season is kind of a separate year. You take it as it approaches: offseason, training camp, it's all in each individual segment so you try to look at what's in front of you and not too far ahead."
Patriots training camp looms large. Though he's gotten solid snaps off the line during mini-camp, it's in late July that player evaluation gets serious.
Linebackers coach Pepper Johnson likes the potential.
"He's a guy that's a workaholic. He's constantly going. You have to slow him down on the field. I don't want to slow him down, but... " Johnson laughed.
"He's going to be a plus for us -- he already is a plus for us."
If only Carpenter can translate the words into something meaningful. So much of what's been said about him in the last six years has not been kind.
"I just try to go out there and play best I can," said the linebacker. "I don't know if you want to put tags on it -- reporters kind of do better with that. It's a tough game. You try to make plays. However you do it, someone else can say that."
They will. But that hasn't really been the trouble.