FOXBOROUGH — Andre Carter spent more time with the 49ers and Redskins than he did with the Patriots, but sitting at home in California the past few months, pondering his football future, his choices were clear: He’d either retire from the NFL or play for the Patriots.
Fortunately for Carter, the Patriots came calling this week. He took a red-eye flight and signed a contract Wednesday, and was on the field for practice. The veteran defensive end could hardly contain his smile when he met with the media after the workout.
“It’s great,” said Carter, 34. “Me and my wife were talking, and this place holds a special meaning, not just as far as what I did, but the camaraderie that I had here in 2011 — the town, the city of Foxborough, the state. It was very memorable, and I’m just blessed to be back.”
Carter spent the 2011 season with the Patriots, playing in the first 14 games before suffering a quad injury that kept him from participating in that year’s playoff run, including the Super Bowl. He had 10 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Andre,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s a hard-working guy. He’s given us some great leadership in the past.”
Belichick said he doesn’t know where Carter is at as far as physical preparedness and will have to see him in a few practices.
The Patriots have lost key defensive players in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, and they had brought in Carter for a workout earlier this season. He didn’t re-sign with the Patriots after his solid 2011 season, opting instead for Oakland. He was gone, but he wasn’t a stranger.
“I still kept in contact with Mayo, Wilfork, and a lot of my teammates, and just told them they’ll continue to be brothers,” Carter said. “The game moves on, but the Patriots are always going to be in my heart, no matter what.”
He won’t have Mayo or Wilfork on the field with him, but he said he’s been watching Patriots games, and has an idea of what kind of defense he’ll be joining.
“Young,” he said. “The defense is a lot different compared to when I was here in 2011. We’re young. Very talented group of guys. I’m sure they’re trying to find their niche and their place, just like any young team.”
Carter said he’s not sure how much he’ll play or what role he’ll assume. He is just happy to be back, pleased with how he feels physically, and looking forward to what’s to come.
“I felt good today, didn’t feel too winded, and I’ll continue to move forward,” he said. “[Playing time] will be contingent on how the coaches feel, I’m constantly learning the scheme, having an understanding of how everyone fits. I’m trying to stay on top of my game, my craft, as well as my technique and execution.”
A first-round draft pick (seventh overall) of the 49ers in 2001, Carter was with San Francisco through 2005 before signing with the Redskins in 2006.
Carter takes the spot on the 53-man roster that opened when the Patriots released defensive tackle Andre Neblett on Monday.
New England also signed defensive tackle Sealver Siliga to the practice squad. The 23-year-old, listed at 6 feet 2 inches, 325 pounds, has spent time with the 49ers, Broncos, and Seahawks.
To make room for Siliga on the practice squad, the Patriots released cornerback Travis Howard.