- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unlike some NFL observers, the Washington Redskins don’t question Andre Carter.

Some see a $30 million defensive end who is mediocre against the run, had just four sacks last season and reached his 30th birthday in May. The Redskins see a player who started every game last season for the league’s eighth-ranked run defense - a guy who has at least tied for the team lead in sacks every year and hasn’t missed a game since signing in 2006.

“Andre has been everything I expected him to be,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “I know he’s got his critics, but knowledgeable people recognize what he brings to the table. … He played hurt last season. He had a foot that he couldn’t walk on, but on Sundays he shows up and he competes and gives you everything he got. I appreciate the way he works, the professionalism, the competitiveness, the selflessness. The guy is special.”

And while he got off to a slow start, Carter had four sacks in the final five games of the 2006 season and finished with 10.5 in 2007. But Carter managed only four sacks last season despite the part-time presence of six-time Pro Bowl pick Jason Taylor on the opposite side.

“People base success on sacks alone, and that’s not what it’s about,” said Blache, who added that Carter led the team with 16 hurries and was often just a half-step late. “We’re trying to make something that’s mostly an art into a science. Putting numbers to it just doesn’t work. They didn’t paint the Mona Lisa by numbers. They didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel by numbers. Numbers are for the idiots that can’t paint.”

But even Carter will admit last year was frustrating, in part because of his lack of sacks and in part because a 6-2 start turned into in an 8-8 record capped by a road loss to the San Francisco 49ers, his hometown team and the one he left for the Redskins.

“It was disappointing,” Carter said. “We started off hot and faded toward the end. You always want to beat the team you used to play for, and it’s home. There’s always a little something extra [to motivate me] after a year like that.”

So Carter spent even more time in the gym this offseason, losing 10 pounds. At 251 pounds, he feels faster than ever, which he showed by racing at 12.5 mph during a 30-second treadmill test, about 2 mph faster than his usual top speed.

Carter and defensive line coach John Palermo have adjusted his pass-rushing technique. And the addition of All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who lives to clog the middle and free up the outside guys to get to the quarterback, should also be a boon.

“Albert can help me make up that difference between not getting there and getting there,” Carter said. “Football’s all about geometry, the alignment, a better angle.”

But 30 might be the scariest number of all - as in what happens to defensive ends once they reach that age. The player whom Haynesworth compared to Carter, ex-Tennessee teammate Jevon Kearse, averaged 10 sacks during his first six full seasons but just 3.5 in two since turning 30.

“I’m a speed guy and you can’t control Father Time, but I still feel fast,” Carter said. “And I’m strong as ever. I did a lot of core work this offseason. I do my martial arts work. As you get older, you know what your body needs and what it doesn’t.”

Blache trusts that the preparation of Carter - whose father, Rubin, was an NFL defensive tackle for 12 years - will trump the calendar.

“Some guys take care of their bodies so that age number doesn’t become that big a deal,” Blache said. “He and [fellow starting end Phillip Daniels] are really careful about everything they put in their bodies. Their bodies don’t age at the same rate as the guys who eat at Burger King. Andre works out like a madman.

“He’s got the tae kwon do. His life’s in order. He’s a concert pianist.”

• David Elfin can be reached at delfin@washingtontimes.com.

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