FOXBORO -- Andre Carter is happy to be back in Foxboro.
"I talked to my family and my mindset was Patriots or retirement," the 34-year old said Wednesday. "And that's where I was. Fortunately the Patriots called me and I'm here today."
Carter, who was still living in California after playing the 2012 season for Oakland, took a red eye flight across the country. He landed at 5:40 a.m. and felt, finally, he was home.
"This place holds a special meaning, not just for what I did, but just the camaraderie I had here in 2011. The town, the city of Foxboro, the state. It was very memorable and I'm just blessed to be back."
What he did was provide a consistent pass rush the Patriots sorely needed, rack up 10 sacks, and step up to be a solid run defender. He was cruising toward a full-on career renaissance when he suffered a left quadriceps injury December 18.
His season, and his brief tenure in New England, ended as the team marched on to a Super Bowl appearance.
"I think what hurt was just the fact we didn't win it all," Carter said. "But that's the past Business is business. I still kept in contact with [linebacker Jerod] Mayo and [nose tackle Vince] Wilfork, and a lot of my teammates, and just told them we'd continue to be brothers as the game moves on, and Patriots will always be in my heart no matter what."
Carter has been out of football since the Raiders released him August 31, but he's always kept an eye on the Patriots. New England brought him in for a workout in early September. Though there was no parting message to Carter to keep his phone nearby, he continued working out, and he continued watching the team's regular season progress.
His impression of the current Patriots defense?
"Young!" he said with raised eyebrows. "The defense is a lot different as compared to when I was here in 2011. We're young. Very talented group of guys, very talented group of individuals. I'm sure they're trying to find their niche and their place just like any young team. But they're just as talented as any other group, and I think the most important thing is to remain consistent and understand how this game is played."
The 'D' got significantly younger when Wilfork and Mayo, in a span of two weeks, were both felled by season-ending injuries. Carter understands a steadying veteran presence could help. The shape of his on-field role is less clear.
"That'll be contingent on how the coaches feel. I'm just constantly learning the scheme, having an understanding of how everyone fits. It's 100,000 miles per hour," he laughed.
"I'm just trying to stay on top of my game, my craft, as well as my technique and execution in regards to the plays that are called."