Washington Redskins defensive end Adam Carriker celebrates after a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
There was a time in Adam Carriker’s career when it seemed safe to call him a bust. The former first-round pick had missed the 2009 season with a shoulder injury and had done little distinguish himself during two rocky seasons with the St. Louis Rams.
Funny how a simple change of scenery can revitalize a man.
Carriker never fit in with the Rams as he played the unfamiliar position of nose guard, battling through a string of injuries and a coaching staff that didn’t seem to know what to do with him.
“One of their coaches even told me, ‘You know you’re too tall to play inside and you’re too slow to play outside,’ which was funny because I’d done everything,” Carriker said.
“I just felt like I kind of got cast aside and thrown under the bus to be honest with you.”
Fortunately, Carriker was traded to the Redskins, ending what he acknowledged was a difficult time in his career. Now that he’s moved on, he bears no ill will toward the Rams and insisted he’s grateful to them for moving him to a “better situation” in Washington.
“I don’t want it to be like there’s a grudge because there’s not,” he said. “If you talked to me last year there was, but now I’m happy with everything that took place, especially since then.”
What’s happened since the trade has certainly made a difference in Carriker’s outlook. He’s playing for a more flexible coaching staff and the fresh start has him happy, healthy and – for the first time – highly productive.
“My first couple of years it didn’t go the way I wanted it to,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t put in a position to succeed, but whatever. Here, this is a position that fits me. The coaches work with me and it’s been great.”
Carriker has a career-high five sacks through 10 games – an impressive total for a 3-4 end. He’s also been injury-free since missing the 2009 season.
“A lot of times I probably played when I shouldn’t have,” he said of his time in St. Louis. “I was getting so many shots and stuff like that before games it was kind of ridiculous. I probably never should have been on the field.
“It definitely helps when you can play more reps – when you can get on the field,” he continued. “I mean when you’re not hurt obviously it’s going to allow you to be more effective.”
When the Rams played the Redskins earlier this season, they got a firsthand look at what Carriker can do now that he’s reaching his potential. He picked up a sack in the Redskins 17-10 win and St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo was quick to point out Carriker was at ease playing under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
“What I see when I watch Adam on tape is I see a quality player,” he said. “He's a very strong football player and he certainly has fit in well in that particular defense."
Haslett has also been pleased with Carriker’s output as he and the rest of the defensive line can take credit for 15 of Washington’s league-leading 31 sacks.
“Adam obviously feels comfortable with what we’re doing,” Haslett said. “He’s made to be a 3-4 guy. That’s what he did in college. He’s doing a nice job.”
Struggling through the ups and down in St Louis has helped Carriker appreciate his sacks all the more. However, individual stats aren’t his primary motivation. Winning games is.
The Redskins are 3-7 and are far from contending for anything other than a Top 10 draft pick. Lesser players might lose focus of team goals after never experiencing a winning season in the NFL, but Carriker still wants to be part of a successful franchise. That franchise he says – despite the scrutiny surrounding Mike Shanahan – is the Redskins.
"I absolutely believe we can win games here,” he said. “I’m happy with how I’ve played, [but] like I said I’d be a lot happier if we were getting wins. That’s the main thing. We don’t play this game to get good stats. We play games to get to the playoffs, to get to the Super Bowl.”
For now though, Carriker will have to stay patient and dedicate himself towards the pursuit of such goals. Knowing him, he’ll help see to it that there’s a resurgence in Washington sooner rather than later.