Redskins pit Carter vs. Marino Rookie watched QB as boy in Florida

September 23, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Cornerback Tom Carter never dreamed he'd play against Dan Marino when he watched the Miami quarterback on TV while growing up in Florida.

"Watching him have those 5,000-yard seasons, I thought he'd be long gone by that time [when Carter was old enough to play pro football], but he's still doing the same thing," Carter said yesterday.

Carter will get a chance to stop Marino when the Washington Redskins come off the bye week to face the Dolphins on Monday, Oct. 4, at Joe Robbie Stadium.

Carter, who turned 21 on Sept. 5, got the word yesterday that he'll make his first NFL start against the Dolphins in place of A. J. Johnson, who was burned by the Philadelphia Eagles' Calvin Williams last Sunday.

Carter, a St. Petersburg, Fla., native who was 10 when Marino was drafted by the Dolphins in 1983, said he knows Marino is likely to come after him, but said, "It'll be a good test to come out and jump into the fire. It makes you tougher knowing they're going to come after you."

Carter's promotion means the Redskins' top two draft picks -- Carter and running back Reggie Brooks, both of whom are from Notre Dame -- will be in the starting lineup against the Dolphins.

Since the Redskins didn't have a rookie start the opener from 1983 when Darrell Green did it to 1990 when Andre Collins did it, it's a virtual milestone for the Redskins to be going with two rookies in just the fourth game of the year. Brooks got the nod over Brian Mitchell on Monday after rushing for 154 yards in the losing cause against the Eagles.

Emmitt Thomas, the assistant coach in charge of the defensive backs, said he doesn't think it's a gamble to toss Carter in against Marino despite the fact he played only three years of college ball.

"We all thought he was deserving to be a first-round pick," he said.

But the Redskins will give him some help.

"We've got to do some things to help him, move him around and hide him a little bit until he gets acclimated," he said.

The Redskins had thought Carter would challenge Johnson for a starting job in training camp, but he was sidelined by a back injury.

Johnson played well in camp and won the job replacing free agent Martin Mayhew, but had problems Sunday covering Williams, who caught eight passes for 181 yards -- including the game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left.

If the Redskins didn't have a first-round pick backing up Johnson, they might have let him try to work his way through it. But they're eager to get a long look at Carter, who had done well on passing downs.

Although Carter was the closest player to Williams when he made the winning catch Sunday for the Eagles, it wasn't his assignment to cover the middle of the field.

Meanwhile, Johnson, who declined to comment yesterday, will still play as the nickel back.

"He's a professional," Thomas said. "He knows he's not doing well. When we call on him again, we think he'll be ready."

Carter said: "It's all part of the game. We've all gone through it. A. J.'s going to come back fine. It's not like he's going to lie %% down and quit."

Carter became a starter for six games as a freshman free safety at Notre Dame, but then was benched himself.

"Coach [Lou] Holtz got mad at me. I made a bad read against Navy and came back and got a flagrant foul. That was pretty much it for that year," he said.

Carter came back to start every game the next two seasons before passing up his senior year because, among other reasons, his mother, Winifred, was laid off as a bank teller and he wanted to help out.

Despite that incident with Holtz, Carter speaks positively of the Notre Dame coach, whose program was criticized in the book, "Under the Tarnished Dome."

"One of the things that separates the guys at ND is that you've got to do your schoolwork. The teachers don't care if you play football or soccer. It makes you a better person when you leave," he said.

As he prepares for his first start, Carter is even using a Holtz slogan to keep himself on an even keel. He said Holtz would say that things aren't as good as they seem and they're not as bad as they seem.

Holtz would then add, "Somewhere in the middle, reality falls."

Carter will find out next Monday night what the reality of defending against Marino is like.

NOTES: LB Andre Collins, whose stomach ailment finally was diagnosed as acute gastroenteritis, was released from the hospital yesterday. The Redskins feared he was suffering from appendicitis when he became ill last Saturday. They hope Collins, who missed the first three games with a knee injury, will play against Miami.


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