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."

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.