Carter could catch on as Raven


Free agent after season, 15-year vet says team is what he's `looking for'

Ravens notebook

January 04, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

With wide receiver Cris Carter likely to play his final game for the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night against the Ravens, the 15-year veteran who had been to eight straight Pro Bowls is looking at Baltimore as a possible site to continue his career.

Carter, 36, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He originally announced he would retire but has since decided to play at least one more year, but most likely not with Minnesota.

If he were to come to the Ravens, Carter would be re-united with coach Brian Billick, offensive coordinator with the Vikings from 1993 to 1998.

"Given the situation, I think Baltimore has a lot of the things that I'm looking for," Carter said. "I'd like to go to a veteran-oriented team that has a chance to win the Super Bowl. I also would like to go to an offense where I fit in and they could use a lot of my talent. And then I'd like to go to a place that has grass, and another thing, too, is that you just want to have the opportunity to really help your team get over the hump."

Carter has 68 catches for 811 yards and six touchdowns this season. With the Vikings' situation in flux - there is speculation that coach Dennis Green may be fired after this season - Carter is apparently not in the team's future plans.

"I think there are a lot of opportunities," Carter said. "I haven't said I'm going to leave yet; I just said there were opportunities that I might leave. My contract is up, and I want to be at a position at this point in my career to win. And I don't think I'm doing right by myself if I don't explore those opportunities. I believe the Vikings are rebuilding. How long that phase is going to take, I don't know. But for me, I'm going to look at the other options I do have."

This is the first season Carter will not go to the Pro Bowl since 1992. He has gone over 1,000 receiving yards the previous eight seasons. But his chance for a ninth straight 1,000-yard season is in serious peril.

He may not play against the Ravens because of a fractured rib he sustained Sunday in a loss to the Green Bay Packers, according to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

Carter's numbers have been a little off, but the Vikings have been without starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper the past four games. While Billick cannot comment on whether the team will be interested in signing Carter, he did say Carter has been playing at a high level.

"This is the first chance I've really had to look at him at length on film, and he's the same old Cris I've known for years," Billick said.

Hellestrae snapped up

The Ravens placed long snapper Joe Maese on injured reserved and signed 17-year veteran Dale Hellestrae to take over the duties.

Hellestrae had spent the previous 11 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas released him in March, and he remained unsigned throughout this season.

"I stayed in shape, working out three or four days a week," Hellestrae said. "I actually thought I would be getting a call earlier than this. Dallas has struggled this year, and I'd gotten some feedback from them and a couple other teams.

"Probably about two weeks ago, I decided it probably wasn't going to happen this year."

Maese sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee Dec. 23 against the Cincinnati Bengals, which limited him against the Buccaneers.

Sharper getting better

Linebacker Jamie Sharper is getting closer to making that elusive first Pro Bowl appearance.

His statistics this season are impressive with six sacks, 129 tackles and 12 passes defensed; just not quite impressive enough to persuade the voters.

"It's disappointing, but for me, nothing can take away what happened to us last year, winning the championship," Sharper said. "I definitely want to make it to the Pro Bowl and have that recognition. The main thing is I know I'm getting better with each year. My stats are getting better and the defense is getting better, so that's all I'm worried about."

Going to Heap

Tight end Todd Heap has just 16 catches on the season, but the Ravens are feeling comfortable enough to go to him in the red zone.

Once in each of the past two games, quarterback Elvis Grbac has tried to hit Heap in the end zone, including a crucial third-and-six in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Neither time was successful, but it does show a certain confidence in the rookie.

"If they [the defense] are going to cover us like that, you got to go to who's open," Heap said. "So they've been trying to stack up on Shannon [Sharpe], and if the opportunity comes up, we need to take advantage of it."

Injury update

Gary Baxter (thigh), Carnell Lake (thigh) and James Trapp (groin) practiced yesterday, though they are all questionable for Monday night's game.

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