Baltimore rush end Grant Carter was so eager to play in the season opener at British Columbia last month that he couldn't sit still. That meant leaving his Owings Mills apartment for the nearest bowling center rather than watching the game on television as he recovered from a pulled hamstring suffered in the last exhibition game.
"I hadn't missed a football game in seven or eight years, and I didn't know how to handle that," he said. "Here was my chance to start my first professional football game, and it felt like it slipped through my fingertips."
He now has a firm grasp on the job.
Carter was activated the next week after Jock Jones had been released, and he still can't stay in one place for long. In Saturday's 43-7 romp over Winnipeg, Carter spent much of his time roaming around the Blue Bombers backfield, chasing quarterbacks Sammy Garza and Reggie Slack and helping to disrupt the visitors' game plan.
By the end, he had made two tackles, knocked down two passes, recovered a fumble and sacked Garza once. And the Stallions had their third consecutive victory since losing, 37-34, in British Columbia.
"I'm just glad I got the chance to do some good things," he said. "The rest of the guys are doing a great job, and that takes a lot of the pressure off me. With all the big names we have on defense, I'm going to be the no-name, but I think that has its advantages. If I keep making plays, hopefully, my name will be known pretty soon, too."
Having the likes of end Elfrid Payton and tackles Jearld Baylis and Robert Presbury on the line with him "makes all the difference in the world," he said. "Every time you go into a game, the defense has to focus on so many people. I'm going to get a lot of one-on-one blocks, and I have confidence in myself that, in that situation, I'm going to be able to come out on top more often than not."
Carter, 6 feet 2, 230 pounds, would have made his first CFL start against B.C. if not for the injury. That opened the door for Jones, until it was slammed shut. Jones didn't make a tackle against the Lions, didn't hustle on every play and didn't stick around for long.
Carter, who was signed last October and appeared in all three playoff games, looks as if he's here to stay. A three-time All-Big West selection at the University of Pacific, he made an impressive debut against San Antonio with three tackles and a sack, and he hasn't let up.
"Grant is a very good athlete; he's quick," said Marty Long, the Stallions' defensive line coach. "The thing Grant has probably added to our defense is he's a communicator out on the field while he's doing his job. He can help other people get in the places they need to be. Some athletes just go out and are able to beat a man one-on-one during battle. Grant is able to play a one-on-one battle, but at the same time, tell the guy beside him where he needs to be according to the backfield set."
Carter lines up on the strong side, so he has to contain the quarterback. "That was one of the big things we looked at, to see if he could do that type of job. And coming through camp, he proved himself to be the best at that position," Long said.
He also is able to play special teams and still look fresh on defense, no matter how much ground he has to cover.
"He goes 50 yards on a punt, then has to line up on defense, or goes 65-70 yards on a kickoff, then lines up. You have to be a very special person to do that type of stuff," Long said.
No changes on line
The offensive line should remain the same for Saturday's game at Birmingham. Coach Don Matthews said center Nick Subis, who has been inactive the past two weeks because of a rib injury, still isn't ready, meaning Mike Withycombe again will start in his place. John James will play at left guard.
Matthews said an extra defensive back may be added for Saturday's game.