Ravens rookie Nigel Carr keeps his focus on one promise

Carr is leaving behind a troubled past in hopes of a promising future

  • Ravens linebacker Nigel Carr is seen during one of the team's preseason workouts.
Ravens linebacker Nigel Carr is seen during one of the team's… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
August 28, 2012|By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun

It was an unforgettable moment for Ravens rookie inside linebacker Nigel Carr on a day charged with emotion.

During the final day of a minicamp tryout, Ravens coach John Harbaugh approached Carr with a direct, blunt question about his troubled past:

'If I add you to this team, what guy will I get?" Will I get the guy from Florida State who got arrested or the guy who did the right things at Alabama State?'" Harbaugh asked.

Carr remembers looking Harbaugh in the eye and responding, “I promise you will get a guy who's a changed man, a family man trying to make his way for his daughter."

"I'm a man of my word," Carr said. "They're not going to have any problems out of me.”

Carr signed with the Ravens on May 14 as an undrafted free agent two years after a burgeoning football career was nearly derailed by a serious brush with the law.

While he was a sophomore at Florida State in 2010, Carr was arrested for breaking into two cars and charged with five felonies.

His career at Florida State was over. Under a school policy regarding athletes charged with felonies, Carr lost his scholarship and was dismissed from the football program.

Carr transferred to Alabama State where he stayed out of trouble for the next two years.

But the damage was already done.

He was passed over in the 2012 NFL draft, and now is trying to beat the odds to make the Ravens’ linebacker-stacked roster.

The Ravens will make their final set of cuts Friday, whittling the roster from 75 to 53 players.

Carr understands what is at stake, and so far the Ravens haven’t had any complaints with the rookie on or off the field. The 6-feet-2, 247-pounder leads the team with a dozen tackles through three preseason games.

“I believe in second chances,” Harbaugh said. “Nigel had to go to Alabama State and he played great for them. He was a model citizen, and he has been that here. We all learn lessons, sometimes the hard way. Especially guys that pay a heavy price for a mistake, you shouldn't have to keep paying a price.”

'He made a horrible mistake'

Carol Brown describes herself as her son's rock, but she was worried that she would break down when he got arrested.

Once she heard Carr was in jail, she immediately made the nearly three-hour drive from her home in Jacksonville, Fla., to Tallahassee, Fla., to be with him.

“He knew that he made a horrible mistake,” said Brown, a divorced single mother who works as a mortgage underwriter. “He said, 'Mom, I made a mistake that won't go away.’ He cried, he was emotional, he was a nervous wreck.

“I was very concerned and worried. I didn't raise him that way. That's not who I am, that's not who we are.”

Mortified by his transgressions, Carr said he had strayed from the religious base instilled by his mother. He grew up going to church and singing in the choir as a tenor.

“I knew I hurt her bad, I could see it in her eyes,” Carr said. “I was ashamed and embarrassed.”

Carr acknowledged that he got caught up in a fast lifestyle at Florida State, and a desire for material things. He wasn't an NFL player yet, but coveted the trappings of a professional athlete: cash, nice clothes and an expensive car.

“You think about that money,” Carr said. “You want flashy things and get impatient. You lose sight of who you are. I did stuff that I saw growing up. Old, bad habits surface. I know I was wrong.”

On that night two years ago, Carr was accused of smashing in a car window and driving away in a white Buick registered to his mother. The victim discovered her book bag, checkbook and purse in a large trash bin outside of Carr's apartment complex, and her credit card and sweater in his car.

Surveillance video captured a man in a white car throwing things into the bin, according to police reports.

He pleaded no contest to lesser charges of theft, a second-degree misdemeanor, in the burglary case and was sentenced to three years of probation and nearly $6,000 in fines and court costs. Carr said that he can end his probation early if he pays the remaining balance of $4,000.

If he makes the active roster, Carr would make a base salary of $390,000 and would be due a weekly game check of $22,491.

“I thought I ruined my life, but it was just starting,” Carr said. “I got brought down, I got humbled. One stupid mistake can cost you so much. At the time, it felt like something I couldn't get past.

“I thought I would be in jail. Now, I say, 'What the hell was I thinking?' It doesn't make no sense. I don't know why I did it.”

Fast success

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