When you're a wide receiver named Chris Carter — and you're not Cris Carter — you learn to accept that it will take some time for people to get to know the real you.
RENTON — When you’re a wide receiver named Chris Carter — and you’re not Cris Carter — you learn to accept that it will take some time for people to get to know the real you.
Because they’re too busy processing why you’re not connected to the other you.
It’s hard to talk to Chris Carter without becoming a silly coincidence jester. The joke is too obvious. If not for the “H” in his name, he might make feeble minds explode.
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He hears it all the time. Fellow Seahawks wideout Mike Williams asked it last week.
“You related to Cris Carter?”
No, no. Chris Carter laughs. He’s simply an undrafted free agent from UC Davis who happens to share a loose connection to one of the greatest receivers ever to play in the NFL. That’s all.
“When people ask me, it’s always like an accomplishment to me,” Chris Carter says. “People ask, I say no, they move on, but I’m fine with it. I take it as a cool thing.”
It could be worse. He could be another running back named O.J. Simpson.
Instead, he shares the name of a likely Hall of Famer who caught 1,101 passes, collected 13,899 receiving yards and scored 130 touchdowns.
Chris Carter’s stats: N/A.
Well, it sounds better than zero.
Chris Carter, 24, has yet to play an NFL game. He didn’t get picked up last season because he was recovering from a knee injury. And this is where the kid’s story helps him break free from the legend.
It has been a taxing journey just to get a chance to compete for an NFL roster spot. Three games into his sophomore season, he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and missed the rest of the year. Doctors told him that he could avoid surgery by strengthening other muscles in his leg, so he did.
He had a terrific junior season without that PCL, and he was playing well as a senior. But then the pain arrived, and it persisted, and Chris Carter learned four games into the 2009 season that he had torn cartilage in his left knee because his body was compensating for that missing PCL. He winced through seven more games. He caught 85 passes in 11 games and had surgery in December 2009.
“It’s the first time I had a serious injury, and I wanted to be out there so bad,” Chris Carter said. “I had to fight through it. I couldn’t practice most of my senior year, but I had to fight through it.”
The cost for his toughness was steep, however: He couldn’t compete in the NFL combine or any other workouts to enhance his draft stock. He couldn’t straighten his leg and was on crutches for two months. It took six months for the knee to feel right. Once considered a probable late-round pick, Chris Carter went undrafted.
“It was hard, extremely tough, to miss out on proving myself before the draft,” he said. “I thought I would’ve gone through the combine and done well. I guess you have to accept the circumstances you’re given and roll with it.”
It’s just the kind of perspective you’d expect from someone burdened with a legend’s namesake.
But Chris Carter has always seen it as a blessing. Growing up in Danville, Calif., his favorite receivers were Jerry Rice, a must for every Bay Area kid who aspired to be a wideout; and, well, Cris Carter, of course. He hoped to go to a bigger school than UC Davis, but when the major colleges didn’t offer a scholarship, he accepted the best available offer and flourished anyway.
“Watching Cris Carter play might have been part of the reason that I became a wide receiver,” Chris Carter said. “So, I’ll never see having his name as a burden or a bad thing. They always nicknamed him ‘Cris Carter, all he does is score touchdowns.’ That’s what I’m trying to do, also.”
He caught the Seahawks’ attention during a January tryout, and the franchise offered him a futures contract. Of course, just his luck, the NFL lockout meant that Chris Carter couldn’t prove himself during mini-camps and organized team activities. But he’s here at training camp, healthy, showing flashes that he could develop into a dependable slot receiver.
At 5 feet 11 and 191 pounds, Chris Carter doesn’t have the size of the 6-5 Williams or 6-4 Sidney Rice. He’s a longshot to make the roster because the Seahawks also have Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, 2011 draft pick Kris Durham and, if healthy, Deon Butler as higher-profile options. But if Chris Carter has a good camp, the Seahawks are open to keeping him. The practice squad could also be an option.
“The past couple of days have been exactly what I thought they would be,” Chris Carter said, smiling. “I am pumped. I’m healthy. I’m ready to put in the work and see if they notice me.”
It’s not hard to be noticed when you’re a wide receiver named Chris Carter. Once the novelty wears off, though, No. 16 — not No. 80 — hopes to be remembered.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer