MINNEAPOLIS -- Though it ended rather ugly for his team, Cris Carter was still able to smile after what was likely his last game in the Metrodome with the Minnesota Vikings.
"Even with the controversy that is surrounding the team right now, it still doesn't damper what has happened here for me," said Carter, who can become a free agent after the season and has given strong hints he'd like to play for another team in 2002 instead of staying with the Vikings or retiring.
"Do I want to play? Do I want to play here? Or do I want to go somewhere else? Those are all questions that will have to be answered."
The 36-year-old wide receiver, who caught seven passes for 88 yards in Sunday's 33-3 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars, spoke fondly after the game of his time in Minnesota. That includes eight trips to the playoffs, a place the 5-9 Vikings won't be going this year.
Carter, who will finish his 15th NFL season, was asked why he stopped short of declaring this season would for sure be his last of 12 with Minnesota.
"It's not the right time," Carter said. "Plus, if I make that announcement now, then I have one less option."
Like a basketball team trying to get the benchwarmer a shot in a blowout game, the Vikings forced the ball to Carter on the final drive. Twice, Spergon Wynn tried to find him in the end zone. The first one was broken up by Marlon McCree, who also intercepted the second.
Much of the paid crowd of 64,150 had left by early in the fourth quarter, but those who remained gave Carter a hearty ovation just before the two-minute warning after the star wide receiver expressed his appreciation to the Minnesota fans. He shook the hands of fans sitting behind the end zone after the game.
"It's nice as a 36-year-old to know that people say you can still play the game," Carter said. "It's been more fun than I ever expected."
Carter, who ranks second all-time to Jerry Rice in touchdown catches and receptions, is on his way to his least productive season since 1992. With two games to go, he has 800 yards and six touchdowns.
"I don't want to stay on the field one day longer than I should," Carter said. "I believe someone else at a certain time needs the opportunity to play. I still love playing -- just like when I came into the league in '87."
Coach Dennis Green was terse and guarded when asked about Carter's potentially final game in the Metrodome.
"I don't think it will be Cris's last game," Green said. "I think he's a tremendous player, and I think he'll probably be playing for the Vikings in the future."
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