- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 21, 2002

Back in the summer, when his body was as fresh as his spirit, the Houston Texans' David Carr thought the hardest thing about being a rookie quarterback on an expansion team would be living up to his own expectations.
Fourteen games and 70 sacks later, the top choice in April's draft is glad to still be in one piece.
"I never went to the training room before this year," said Carr, who has missed only one snap this season. He's all but sure to break Randall Cunningham's unenviable record of being sacked 72 times in tomorrow's game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
"I got sacked maybe 15 times all of last season and probably not that many times my junior year," Carr said. "When I was in elementary school and junior high, I didn't have a backup so when I got hurt, I had to stay in the game. That kind of rubbed off on me, and I've kept that same mentality."
The toughness of the 23-year-old from blue-collar Bakersfield, Calif., via Fresno State, has come to characterize the tenacious Texans, whose four victories are the second most by an expansion team and who have suffered four of their 10 losses by seven or fewer points.
Although Carr has a seven-year, $46.5million contract, he made a point of carrying veteran center Steve McKinney's bags on the first day of training camp like any rookie.
"My goal was to be starting by the opener, but I didn't want to be handed anything," Carr said. "That's the only way you can earn respect from your teammates. I had to make sure that I was one of the guys and didn't do anything to separate myself."
Of course, the top pick always receives extra attention, especially when he's a quarterback. Carr's numbers are far from super he has nine touchdown passes and he's last in the AFC with a 65.6 passer rating, but that's higher than the rookie ratings of five of the other eight quarterbacks to go first in the last 27 drafts. And John Elway, Vinny Testaverde, Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe and Michael Vick didn't play for expansion teams.
"It's just a matter of time when you take a guy that high, so why not start him from the beginning?" said Texans coach Dom Capers, who regrets waiting four games to make such a move with Kerry Collins on the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995. "In the long run, it's really going to pay a lot of dividends for us. David has grown from it. His confidence hasn't wavered. He'll go into next year much better because of his experience this year. We'll see his abilities come forth as we get more talent around him."
Capers loves Carr's strong arm, and he's especially pleased with his attitude.
"David hasn't pointed a finger or made an excuse," Capers said. "I go back to the second game, when San Diego was overwhelming us [Carr was sacked a career-high nine times].
"Do you pull David out of there? If I had, I think people would have viewed it as he was being treated differently than everybody else on the team. David hung in there, battled through and showed toughness. Everyone in that locker room respected him for that."
Carr's development has been hindered by the season-long absence of Pro Bowl left tackle Tony Boselli with a shoulder injury and by the right side tandem of Ryan Schau and Ryan Young missing a combined 17 starts. Five of Carr's fellow rookies are regulars for the NFL's worst offense. None of Houston's wide receivers has more than 38 catches, while running backs Jonathan Wells and James Allen average just 3.1 yards.
"It's hard to have goals on a team that you haven't played on, on a team that wasn't even a team last year, but I feel good about what I've done [though] there are a lot of things to get better at," Carr said. "Getting in there and getting the live bullets coming at you is the only way you're going to learn. You can learn so much more on the field than you can sitting in a meeting room and going over your playbook for the 500th time.
"At first, I was kind of feeling my way through the NFL and trying to get a feel for what my guys were all about, but you come to a point where you're losing so you get a little vocal and say some things to guys. I wanted to make sure that they knew I could play ball before I started asserting myself. We've been a better team since, even though our record doesn't show it."

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