Lorenzo Carter wouldn’t allow his injury to beat him down. He had a season to prepare for.
When Carter ruptured his left Achilles tendon in Week 5 at Dallas last year, it cost him the rest of his third season in the NFL. But while the injury might have prevented the outside linebacker from playing, it couldn’t stop him from improving.
“I’m a veteran now,” Carter told The Post on Tuesday. “There’s no time to be a step behind.”
The outside linebacker dedicated himself to getting better by watching, studying some of the best pass-rushers in the NFL and talking to different people around the league. He couldn’t afford to not be primed for his fourth season with the Giants, the last year of his rookie contract. Carter couldn’t be on the field with his teammates, but he had the ability to be ready when his Achilles tendon healed.
“That was one thing I focused on this year, being more of a student of the game, understanding everything,” he said. “I see what works for other people and I try to replicate it.”
It remains to be seen what kind of player Carter will be after the first major injury of his career. He gained belief in himself by going to a few Nets games at Barclays Center and watching Kevin Durant play. Durant had the same injury as Carter — they share the same doctor — and returned as dynamic as before.
“It gives me a lot of confidence. Just seeing what he’s been doing. … I was just excited to see him ball, get the chance to go out there and do the same thing,” Carter said. “It just let me know he put the work in. You got to put that work in. It’s going to be hard — it’s always hard coming back from an injury. But you got to step up to the challenge and that’s what he did, and I plan on doing the same thing.”
This would be the perfect year for Carter to break out, because the Giants are in desperate need of productive edge rushers. Kyle Fackrell, their best player at getting to the quarterback from the outside a year ago, wasn’t brought back. Markus Golden was traded to the Cardinals during the season. There are a host of question marks at the position now — from unproven youngsters to players returning from injury to low-risk veterans — and no clear-cut answers.
There were high hopes for Carter after the Giants took him in the third round in the 2018 draft. But he has yet to live up to their expectations. He had 8.5 sacks and 44 tackles in 14 starts over his first two seasons. Then, the 25-year-old linebacker managed just one sack and 15 tackles in four games last season prior to his injury early in the fifth game.
But Carter believes the concern is overblown. The Giants have heard the talk of the lack of pass-rushers. He thinks the team has more than enough talent in the room to get the job done, whether it’s Ifeadi Odenigbo finding his 2019 form (seven sacks with the Vikings), second-round pick Azeez Ojulari making an immediate impact, or any of the many others battling for playing time.
“On the outside a lot of people think we need pass-rushers or it’s a big thing. First, it’s not. We got the guys we need right here,” said Carter, who has been getting first-team reps during training camp and even has been used at times at strong-side linebacker. “We got that chip on our shoulder, where we’re ready to come out here and play some ball.”
Carter can’t wait for the games to begin, to apply what he learned during his recovery time. He thought every day about returning. It made him appreciate the game even more.
“I’m going to take advantage,” Carter said, “of every chance I get.”