- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

Running back Ki-Jana Carter showed up at Washington Redskins training camp last summer hoping to impress coaches and win a roster spot. Five months later, he exits the season as one of the Redskins’ more intriguing free agents.

Assuming Carter doesn’t re-sign before free agency opens March1, he could generate as much interest around the NFL as unrestricted Redskins starters like Stephen Alexander and Shawn Barber. After impressing as Washington’s backup rusher and third-down back this season, Carter, 28, might be considered for some club’s starting job.

That won’t happen here, of course, where the Redskins have Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis. But Carter would like to return perhaps even if there’s a starting job available elsewhere. Yesterday he said the chance to start will be important to him, but that it isn’t necessarily his top priority.

“All season I really haven’t thought about it too much,” Carter said. “Right now I’m just focused on finishing the season out. [In the offseason] I’ll go back to Florida where I live, and I guess I’ll talk to my agent and see how this process goes, because I really haven’t been through a process like this before.”

Indeed, Carter’s previous contractual situations have been only boom and bust. First he was 1995’s No.1 overall draft pick by Cincinnati. Five years and three season-ending injuries later, he was reduced to trying out for clubs in hopes of a minimum-salary deal.

That’s what he got in Washington, following a workout in camp on the recommendation of Redskins personnel director John Schneider. Carter went on to average 4.7 yards per rush, catch 12 passes and score three touchdowns.

“I think it’s been an excellent situation for us and for K.J.,” coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “He’s done a terrific job for us. He’s a good runner, obviously. He’s a good pass-protector his opportunities were limited early on, because we wanted to make sure he was familiar with the pass protection. And then he is a very good receiver as well.”

Schottenheimer, probably hoping not to excite teams any further, shrugged when asked about Carter’s future in free agency. Said the coach: “There’s no way of knowing. He’s had a good year and that might create interest, but …”

One more for Metcalf?

Punt returner Eric Metcalf hadn’t played an NFL game in nearly two years when he signed in late October, but he is on target to end the season with the best average (13.1 yards) of his impressive career.

Now Metcalf, 33, wants to play at least one more year if anyone will have him. “I would love to come back here if the opportunity was given to me, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Metcalf said. “Teams around the league might think you can contribute or not contribute, for whatever reason, so we just have to wait and see what happens.”

Metcalf sat out 2000 partly because of a lack of interest from NFL teams and partly because he wanted to play on the West Coast, where his wife was pregnant with twins. His family remained in Seattle this fall but he said that hasn’t been a problem and that it wouldn’t be next year if he wanted to play again.

Metcalf thought his NFL days were done when he was released from Oakland this preseason. The Redskins called after Kevin Lockett and Michael Bates combined for 19 total yards on punt returns in Weeks 1-6. Metcalf returned his first attempt 89 yards for a touchdown and now thinks he could be in even better shape next season.

“I could play easily,” Metcalf said. “There’s no question in my mind that I could play. It’s just a matter of getting an opportunity and finding a place where it works out.”

Extra points

Wide receiver Michael Westbrook missed another day of practice with a swollen ankle. He will not play against Arizona if he does not practice today. Running back Stephen Davis (knee) resumed full practice after being limited Wednesday. Linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee) and guard Ben Coleman (knee) both practiced. …

Wide receiver Kevin Lockett won a Golden Glove in the win at New Orleans not for a crushing hit, which usually earns the team award, but for a shoestring tackle against kickoff returner Michael Lewis. Lewis, a speedster, nearly broke a second-quarter return up the middle but couldn’t get past Lockett. Fittingly, the award was decorated by teammates with shoestrings. …

Rookie cornerback Fred Smoot is headed back to Mississippi State at season’s end to work on his degree, a psychology major/broadcast communications minor for which he needs 17 credit hours. He plans to take 15 of those hours in the spring semester.

“I’m still in the groove with school and I don’t want to get it too far [out of my mind],” Smoot said. “It will make my mom proud. [But] 17 hours would be a load and there’s no use tricking myself that I could do it.”

cRick Snider contributed to this report.

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