During spring organized team activities, many established veterans stay away, having earned the unspoken equity to skip the optional workouts. Some players entering contract years will stay away as well, with varying results, as Matthew Judon and Michael Pierce showed this year. (Judon reported to mandatory minicamp looking lean and quick; Pierce was
pulled from the practice field for safety reasons
because he was out of shape.)
Yet as the Ravens went through their spring OTA paces, with rookies adapting to life in the NFL and younger players seeking to make a favorable impression, 12-year veteran cornerback Brandon Carr was out there sweating, grinding, preparing for another season with much the same approach as a decade ago.
"I just like playing football," said Carr, who turned 33 in May, when asked about his presence at optional OTAs. "They do a great job of letting us have our peace in the offseason, but we know when it's time to come to work. We have a lot of young guys who need rest, but also just need some coaching as well. I have a lot of insight. I think I can just give them all my knowledge, pass it on to the next young stud out there."
It's easy to see why former general manager Ozzie Newsome and others have praised Carr's locker-room impact and why the organization has retained the veteran even at the cap hit of $7 million this season.
In terms of teaching young players how to be pros, from the approach to NFL classroom meetings and OTA practices through the grind of training camp and a 16-game NFL season, the Ravens would be hard-pressed to find a better example than Carr.
Not only has he never missed a start in 11 NFL seasons -- his streak of 176 straight starts is the longest of any active defensive player and the second-longest overall behind Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (208) -- but he is also a three-time nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award, given for excellence on the field and a positive impact in the community. Carr was nominated twice while he played for the Dallas Cowboys and he was the Ravens' nominee last season.
"The same guy that we get here, who makes plays for us and we can count on all the time, that's who he is as a person," defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale said last fall when Carr's Man of the Year nomination was announced. "I think everybody in this organization sees it."
Carr, originally a fifth-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs out of Grand Valley State in 2008, earned a start in Week 1 of his rookie year and has never left the starting lineup. He started for four seasons in Kansas City, followed by five with the Cowboys and two with the Ravens, who signed him to a four-year, $23.5 million deal in 2017 that included team options for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Last season, Carr finished with 45 tackles and two interceptions and played 876 snaps, second-most among Ravens defensive players.
This season, he again figures to work into a rotation at outside corner that includes Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey, and he can also play in the slot, where the Ravens feature Tavon Young, signed to a contract extension this offseason.
Martindale has joked that he doesn't want to be the guy to end Carr's consecutive-starts streak, and Carr hasn't given Martindale any reason to, still playing at a high level and providing durability while others have been unavailable. Smith missed four games last year serving a suspension, and Humphrey missed a pair with a hamstring injury. Young and slot cornerback Maurice Canady missed one and nine games, respectively.
Through it all, Carr has been suited up and ready to go, leaning on a
dedicated fitness regimen
that includes regular massage, yoga -- something he said he picked up from Jason Witten while playing with the Cowboys -- and work with a nutritionist.
Smith, who has played all 16 games just twice in his eight NFL seasons, said he's been working with Carr's nutritionist this offseason as well.
"To watch a guy like that get it done year in and year out, hats off to him," Smith said after a June minicamp workout. "You want to follow some of the stuff that he's doing, obviously, because he's doing it the right way."