FOXBORO -- With regular season business still to attend to, the Patriots talked Tuesday about being in the moment. It is too early to look ahead to the playoffs as Buffalo rides in this weekend for a Week 17 matchup. The team must be mindful of the present, not the future.
Yet 12-season veteran defensive end Andre Carter has found himself looking back.
"To play this long is definitely a blessing," he reflected after practice. "The average career for the NFL player is maybe now these days -- they say it's three -- but it may have decrease to two-and-a-half just with the injuries you've seen this year. A lot of key guys throughout the whole league have gotten hurt, so for me to play this long, I definitely hold my chest out because not many people can do that."
Not only is the 34-year old on an NFL roster, he's getting snaps for the AFC's current No. 2 seed. Bill Belichick positively raved about the player this week.
"He’s the first one in the meeting, sitting in the front row, has his notebook open before anybody – you would think he’s a rookie free agent. He’s always ready to go. He trains very hard, he’s a very well-conditioned athlete both from a stamina standpoint but the strength and his overall body composition.
"If you never said a word to him and just watched what he does, he’d be a great example and a great role model," the coach continued. "Like if you were an offensive player or something like that where you weren’t that involved with him, but if you played a similar position or an adjacent position and worked with him, you’d get a lot out of that too. He does a good job and as I said, you can see why he’s had such a good career in this league because he’s so committed to it. He’s a smart guy, he works hard and he really cares. I think that’s certainly been a good influence on our team – at the position he plays and all the other ones. It’s good for the coaches too."
Carter started his career in San Francisco. He was selected by the 49ers in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft and played for them through 2005. That Candlestick Park, the team's home stadium, will soon be demolished got Carter's wheels spinning.
"San Francisco has played, possibly the last game at Candlestick Park [on Sunday], and [I'm] going down memory lane. For me to be the last person [former head coach, VP, and GM] Bill Walsh drafted before he retired, to play 13 years and still be going…" Carter paused at the thought. "Rest in peace, Bill Walsh."
"I have a lot of memories. A lot of memories of players I played with and played against. I share some stories with the young guys and it definitely makes you realize how old you are."
Despite playing for four different teams over 12 seasons, Carter has played in only four postseason games. He's not seen the other side of a Divisional Championship game as his only experience, with San Francisco in 2002, resulted in a 31-6 loss to Tampa Bay. He was with New England in 2011 when the team went to Super Bowl XLVI, but suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury December 18.
Carter was 28-years old the last time he dressed for a playoff. Though he allowed himself a look back, he has refused to look too far ahead -- even when tempted to by local reporters.
"The ring will speak for itself, but right now we've got to focus on Buffalo. That's our next opponent and we'll focus on that first."