The tight end is looking forward to his first full offseason with the Redskins, hoping to make an impact after a knee injury erased the majority of his 2016.
Tight end Derek Carrier may be approaching his third season with the Redskins, but considering the hurdles of adversity he's faced during his tenure in Washington, this offseason is really like his first.
Carrier was traded to the Redskins just before the 2015 regular season, forcing him to adjust to a new team without much preparation at all. An ACL/MCL injury during a Bears game in December nearly erased his entire 2016 calendar year. He returned to pads last November, receiving limited work as his knee fully recovered from bouts with tendinitis.
"Right now it's kind of building off those last couple weeks that I had to play and try to put myself in the best position and let the chips fall where they may," he told Redskins.com.
It should be much easier to find a foundation. Carrier spent the first couple months of the offseason resting and doing light lifting, making sure to let his knee fully heal. He spent a month in Florida at the Exos facility where Dr. James Andrews, who performed his surgery, works with athletes and received a stem cell shot into his knee using bone marrow from his hip to help strengthen the tendon.
"Everything was healed structurally from the surgery pretty quickly and it was just a matter of probably getting after things a little too much too soon during the offseason," Carrier said of his recovery last winter. "I think that's what kind of pushed me back, especially getting the tendinitis and that kind of carried over into training camp and into the first couple weeks of the season. Feeing a lot better now, got some time off on it, the cell shot, and then continue rehabbing and getting that whole area a lot stronger has helped."
Carrier has been using the Redskins' facility for the last several weeks, working alongside head strength and conditioning coach Chad Englehart, who he became extremely familiar with last season as rehabbed on side practice fields. "He got me prepared as much as I could do without strapping on the helmet and pads," Carrier said.
Tight ends coach Wes Phillips talked with Carrier near the end of the season about practice habits and his pain levels to make sure how to best acclimate him back to the grind of practices, something Carrier missed for nearly a year. Patience was learned.
The Washington Redskins on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, announced the acquisition of tight end Derek Carrier. Take a look at his NFL career in photos.
"Even when I was back playing, I was having issues with my knee so it really wasn't resolved then," Carrier said. "One of the things I missed the most about being gone was the camaraderie. As a competitor, it is awful just watching guys on the field compete, work and sweat and you are on the sideline. I was working, but you want to be a part of that group and it sucks not being a part of that."
With a healthy outlook for 2017, and the first opportunity to spend April, May and June with his teammates, Carrier's goals are simple: become more comfortable in the offense and string practices together without pain.
"Last year I was completely injured, so I didn't get to build a rapport with Kirk or the offense until I really came back and played," he said. "So I think that's something I'm looking forward to."
While the Redskins re-signed Vernon Davis and will see Jordan Reed and Niles Paul return this offseason, Carrier knows the tight end room will be full and competitive. Along with making sure his knee responds well, he knows he can still provide some tools that will separate him from the pack.
"I do a good job at being versatile in both the pass and run game and pass protection," said Carrier, who entered the league as a wide receiver. "I pride myself in being a complete player and since I have made that conversion to tight end I have improved every year. You never stop learning or getting better but I feel I have come a long ways and it's fun to be able to continually improve. That is just something I look forward to and, like I said earlier, just really focusing on good days in practice where play back-to-back-to-back and I am not in pain. That is really my main focus right now."
Carrier, whose first son will turn seven months at the end of April, hopes to compound more of those good days in the final year of his contract, well-aware that this will be a big opportunity to showcase his work.
"It is just a matter of staying on the field and making sure everything holds up," he said. "But all you can really do is work your tail off and out yourself in the best position and let the chips fall where they may."