FOXBOROUGH -- Andre Carter spent more time with the 49ers and Redskins than he did with the Patriots, but sitting at home in California the past few months, pondering his football future, his choices were clear: He'd either retire from the NFL or play for the Patriots.
Fortunately for Carter, the Patriots came calling this week. He took a red-eye flight and signed a contract Wednesday, and was on the field for practice. The veteran defensive end could hardly contain his smile when he met with the media after the workout.
"Itís great, me and my wife were talking, and this place holds a special meaning, not just as far as what I did, but the camaraderie that I had here in 2011 -- the town, the city of Foxborough, the state," said Carter. "It was very memorable, and Iím just blessed to be back."
Carter, 34, spent the 2011 season with the Patriots, playing in the first 14 games before suffering a quad injury that kept him from participating in that year's playoff run, including the Super Bowl. He had 10 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl.
The Patriots have lost key defensive players in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, and they had brought in Carter for a workout earlier this season. He didn't re-sign with the Patriots after his solid 2011 season, opting instead for Oakland. He was gone, but he wasn't a stranger.
"I still kept in contact with Mayo, Wilfork, and a lot of my teammates, and just told them theyíll continue to be brothers," Carter said. "The game moves on, but the Patriots are always going to be in my heart, no matter what."
He won't have Mayo or Wilfork on the field with him, but he said he's been watching Patriots games, and has an idea of what kind of defense he'll be joining.
"Young," he said. "The defense is a lot different compared to when I was here in 2011. Weíre young. Very talented group of guys. Iím sure theyíre trying to find their niche and their place, just like any young team."
Carter said he's not sure how much he'll play or what role he'll assume. He is just happy to be back, pleased with how he feels physically, and looking forward to what's to come.
"I felt good today, didnít feel too winded, and Iíll continue to move forward," he said. "[Playing time] will be contingent on how the coaches feel, Iím constantly learning the scheme, having an understanding of how everyone fits. Iím trying to stay on top of my game, my craft, as well as my technique and execution."