Sizing up the Central

Carter gets cash, plus appreciation

Tennessee Titans

September 07, 2001

Kevin Carter is a motivated, content man again.

Even when he was angry, which included much of last year with the St. Louis Rams, where he was benched for one game and demoted to second string for two others, Carter still registered 10 1/2 sacks on a poor defense.

And now that Carter has left a team on which he felt underappreciated, he is expecting his best season yet.

"How can I be bitter when I'm so blessed?" said Carter, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans for a first-round draft pick this off-season. "I'm in a great situation here. I've got the contract I wanted. I've got a great group of guys, a very, very talented team."

Especially on the defensive side, where Carter, 27, will team with Pro Bowl pick and fellow Florida Gator Jevon Kearse to form the league's nastiest end tandem. Carter recently signed a six-year contract worth nearly $45 million with a $14 million signing bonus.

With his money and position in order (Kearse will move to right defensive end while Carter stays on the left side), he just has to worry about not becoming a nuisance, as he did last season with the Rams.

So far, no problems.

"He just had a bad rap coming here from St. Louis," Titans defensive tackle John Thornton said. "He's very different. He's a good person off the field as well as on. You can tell it was just a personal problem he had with the Rams. I think he's going to do real good by us. We've got a good system for him."

There's no question Carter is an up-grade over Kenny Holmes, who left via free agency for the New York Giants. Could this mean the Titans' defense will be better than last year's, which was statistically No. 1?

"You think Baltimore plays great defense? Look at this defense," Carter said.

Titans vs. Ravens

Key for Ravens: Contain running back Eddie George and force quarterback Steve McNair to sit in the pocket and throw to an unspectacular group of receivers. If the Ravens can jump on top early and force the Titans out of their running game, the result should be the same as in the AFC divisional playoff game.

Biggest headache: Jevon Kearse. He had four sacks in two regular-season games against the Ravens. Of course, those came against Harry Swayne and not Jonathan Ogden, whom he will face this season.

Stat to watch: McNair is 41-23 as a starter. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes last year, the best of his career.

Brian Billick's impression: "Most people are picking the Titans to win it all. ... With the talent they have, it's hard to argue with them. They feel like they should have been there last year, and they are going to take that mentality this year."

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