EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- Cornerback Dale Carter is the latest veteran to be given a second chance by the Minnesota Vikings.
The way their defense is playing, he's probably doing the Vikings more of a favor than they are for him.
"I'm looking forward to being out there," Carter said. "I think I can help a lot on the field and off the field with the things I've been through."
Carter, 31, a four-time Pro Bowler with Kansas City, recently completed an 18-month suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"I'm just happy to be back in the league," Carter said. "It's been 18 whole, long months. But I've learned a lot from these 18 months that I have been out. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I hated that the situation happened like that, but I became a better person as a whole. I'm not just talking about getting another chance playing football, because I'm not going to play football all of my life. I've got another chance redeeming myself as a whole, getting to know myself and getting to know God better."
He didn't have much trouble getting to know his new teammates. His brother happens to be wide receiver Jake Reed -- though they don't share the same last name. When Carter's reinstatement didn't come in August like he thought it might, he moved to the Twin Cities to live with Reed and his wife.
Older brother has enjoyed keeping an eye on his sibling.
"I'm still taking care of him," Reed said. "Just helping him get his life right so he can fly on his own. I think he's ready to do that. It's a big step getting your life together. Getting connected with the man upstairs and being around good people. We have good people around here that are not going to lead him astray. Once you come into the league, you're young and wild. He's single, and he was just having fun. Everything went against him. Now, being out this year-and-a-half made him sit back and take a look at himself and his life and say, 'Hey, there are a lot of guys out there playing football. I know I should be out there."'
Signing an old pro is nothing new for the Vikings. In 1997, they signed big nose tackle Jerry Ball -- who played well in beefing up the defensive line.
Last year, Minnesota signed cornerback Cris Dishman just before the start of the regular season. Dishman's most memorable moment, however, came in overtime of a Monday night game at Green Bay when he broke up a pass and turned his back to Antonio Freeman, thinking the play was over. Freeman snared the ball just before it hit the ground and breezed in for the winning touchdown.
This year, after strong safety Robert Griffith broke his leg, the Vikings found former Pro Bowl and Buffalo safety Henry Jones at the top of the scrap heap. The Jones experiment lasted five games.
But Carter, even considering he hasn't appeared in an NFL game in nearly two years, is clearly the most talented of the old guys coach Dennis Green has brought in the past few years.
"We've had veteran players who have come in and played a role for us," Green said. "It doesn't mean the player always works out. Some have and some have not. We're confident that this one will work out."
Green is also confident he's doing the right thing by giving Carter another chance.
"I think it's the American way," Green said. "I really do. I always try to do that. This is an opportunity for Dale to get back in the groove and show that he should be in the National Football League. That he can play the game, that he can abide by the rules that the National Football League has set forth. I think it's a great chance for him to prove that."
For Carter, there probably won't be a more exciting way to debut during the regular season than on Monday night.
"I'm going to prepare extra hard for that," Carter said, walking away. "Let 'em know I've still got something left in the tank."
Dave Campbell may be reached at dcampbell(at)ap.org.
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