By Michael Eisen
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Quarterbacks whose NFL resume includes 79 regular season starts, 2,264 passes thrown and 65 touchdown tosses do not generally get excited about preseason games. But David Carr can’t wait to take the field tomorrow night, when the Giants will host the Chicago Bears in New Meadowlands Stadium.
Carr will be the Giants’ second quarterback in the game, after Eli Manning, and could get significant playing time after getting precious little of it the previous three seasons.
“It’s going to be good to get in some real action,” said Carr, who has shared training camp snaps with Sage Rosenfels (last year’s backup) and Ryan Perrilloux behind Eli Manning. “I feel good about what I’m doing out there. Hopefully I can get those other guys to rally around and move the ball a little bit. It’ll be fun.”
Fun was in short supply for Carr during the 2010 season, which he spent with the San Francisco 49ers. The Giants’ backup quarterback in 2008 and ‘09, he signed with the Niners because they train two hours from his Fresno home and he thought he’d get a chance to win the starting job. But before he had a chance to slide on a helmet, Carr knew he had made a mistake.
“I thought it was going to be great,” Carr said. “I got into the situation early on in the spring. (General Manager) Scot McCloughan brought me in and ended up getting fired. I felt like after that I was put on the back burner. To me, that was kind of frustrating. So I kind of knew just a few months before that it wasn’t going to be a great situation with me.
“That was probably the hardest year of my career. I was so excited to get out there and get a chance to compete. When I knew early on that that wasn’t going to be the case, it was a frustrating year. We got through it and got back to some real football.”
That meant returning to the Giants, who contacted him soon after San Francisco terminated his contract when the lockout ended.
“You’d like to think that it’s like this everywhere,” Carr said. “When you think about it, you look at how its run, the operation here, staff. I’m a big believer in coaching now. For me, I’ll never go anywhere again if I don’t believe that the coaching staff is solid. Your front office, everything about it is top notch.”
Carr didn’t play in last week’s preseason opener. He couldn’t practice until the new CBA was ratified on Aug. 4 and Tom Coughlin wanted Carr to get more work before putting him in a game. But Carr will be No. 2 tomorrow after Manning gets his 25 or 30 snaps.
The Giants have the same offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, and same offensive system that were in place during Carr’s first Giants stint, so he was able to step in pretty quickly.
“They’ve changed a couple of things, just small tweaks based on some guys they played last year, some teams and coordinators,” Carr said. “But it’s basically the same thing with minor adjustments. Just getting back into it, sitting in meetings with Eli, Sully (quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan) and those guys, it is coming back pretty quick.
“They do a lot of good things that make sense for a quarterback. It’s not like I really have to strain to do some things on the field. It’s kind of natural. It’s just like, ‘Okay, this is happening, I want to do this,’ and they have an answer for it. That’s what Kevin’s been great about and Eli, obviously. They’re working together. They’ve worked through a lot of the problems that you’ll see as a quarterback. It comes back naturally for you.”
Carr is eager to test himself, because he’s had few recent opportunities to do so in a game. He made just one regular season appearance for the 49ers, at Carolina on Oct. 24, and completed five of 13 passes. He threw 34 passes in the preseason, including a high of 17 vs. Oakland. Two years ago with the Giants, Carr played in six games and completed 21 of 33 passes (63.6 percent) for 225 yards and a touchdown. But long stretches of game action have been rare for him in recent seasons.
“I want to get out there and play,” Carr said. “It’s fun to practice. It’s where you hone your skills in and get sharp and make sure the guys are doing everything right. You’re kind of playing with monopoly money out there. You can take some chances and do some things. When game time comes, there is a way they play football here. Coach Coughlin preaches no turnovers. Make sure you’re smart. I felt I did a good job of that last time I was here. Hopefully, we can get the young guys that are in there with me, even some of the vet guys, and get them going and have a good run. I think we’ll be alright.”
When Carr began his NFL career in 2002, it’s doubtful he thought 10 years into his career he would be looking to impress coaches to earn a second-team job. The Houston Texans selected Carr with the first overall pick of the NFL Draft that year. In five seasons in Houston, Carr started all 16 games four times and threw for more than 13,000 yards and 59 touchdowns. He was also sacked a record 76 times as a rookie and never led the Texans into the playoffs.
Houston did not re-sign him after the 2006 season and in the last four years, Carr has suited up for three teams – Carolina, the Giants and San Francisco – and thrown only 191 passes in 16 regular season appearances. His career hit bottom last year when he never left the sideline in 15 games with the 49ers.
Despite that, Carr said he enjoys football and playing games as much as he did when he was the toast of Houston.
“Absolutely – when I go out on the field is the best part,” he said. “I love it. I love playing. I don’t think that’ll ever go away. Other guys like Brett (Favre), they get in trouble. It’s never boring for them, playing. The work you do in offseason, that gets tedious and sometimes it’s hard. At the same time you know it’s going to make what you do on the field a lot easier. I love it.”
Carr’s offseason was actually more enjoyable this year. Oh, he would have preferred to work with his new team, but the lockout made that impossible. So he threw often with his brother, Derek, who will start at quarterback as a sophomore this year at Fresno State, David’s alma mater.
“We threw a lot of balls,” Carr said. “I probably threw more balls this offseason than I have since I was coming out of Fresno. I think that really helped coming to this training camp with feeling comfortable about throwing a football.”
Because of those workouts, and his familiarity with the Giants offense, Carr will enter the game tomorrow night vs. Chicago with a lot of confidence.
“I expect to get some completions, score some points, score some touchdowns,” Carr said. “It’s always fun. Giants fans are great. You get them excited about it, even if it’s a preseason game. I look forward to putting some points on the board. I’m pretty sure the offense will be good. I think the guy’s are ready. We have talent everywhere.
“For me, it’s going to be one of those things where we go out and I’m going to be with some young guys. I want to make sure that they know 100% what’s going on. I talk to them all the time. No mistakes, no false starts, none of those stupid penalties. If we don’t do that, then we’re going to score. That’s no problem.”
*The Giants defeated Chicago, 17-3, here last Oct. 3. They registered 10 sacks of Bears quarterbacks, including nine of starter Jay Cutler. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora had three apiece.
“Last year is last year,” Tuck said. “Us beating up their quarterback didn’t help us get our job done. We didn’t make the playoffs and we didn’t win the Super Bowl, so I really don’t care about last year. I’m focused on what we are going to do this year. Obviously, they will have a chip knowing that we killed and embarrassed them as far as the O-Line and things like that. I know (offensive line) coach (Mike) Tice is going to bring that up and they are going to come in here ready to play. It gives us an opportunity to work, but last year is last year. I’m not even focused on the stuff we did last year.”
*The Giants and Bears will face off in the preseason for the second time in three years. On Aug. 22, 2009, the Bears defeated the Giants, 17-3, in Soldier Field, which was the ancient rivals’ first preseason meeting since Aug. 5, 2000.
From 1950-1963, the Giants and Bears met in 11 preseason games in locations as varied as Toronto, Memphis, Syracuse and Ithaca, N.Y. The Giants won five of those games. Overall, the Giants are 6-9 in preseason games vs. the Bears.
This is only the second time since 1995 the Giants will face two NFC teams in the same preseason. It last happened in 2009, when their first two games were also against Carolina and Chicago.