Six games into his second season with the Washington Redskins, defensive end Adam Carriker appears to be having a breakout year. The fifth-year pro has recorded 4.5 sacks, which ranks as a career high and has him tied with linebacker Brian Orakpo for first on the team.
Carriker spent much of last season re-acclimating himself to the NFL after a year on injured reserve in 2009. Now he appears to have regained the form that made him the 13th overall pick of the 2007 draft.
The subject of this week’s Gameday Q&A, Carriker talks about his rebound from injury, the mental adjustment required for playing end in the 3-4 defense and his life off the field.
You’re off to a good start this season. What’s the key to your success so far?
“I feel good. Second half of last year I started getting into the comfort zone and it’s just transitioned into this year. I’m just more comfortable. I don’t feel like I’m thinking too much, I feel like I know what the play is going to be a lot of the time, and I can just go play football.”
Before last season, you hadn’t played in the 3-4 during your pro career. Did you have some experience in the system in college?
“Nope. I hadn’t played it ever. Everybody thinks I played in the 3-4 in college. But I didn’t play it at Nebraska, didn’t play it in St. Louis. Last year was the first year.”
Talk about the difference in your role as a 3-4 end compared to a lineman in the 4-3.
“It’s extremely different. Even the individual drills we do. I’ve been playing football since middle school, and I’m like, ‘I’ve never done any of these drills before.’ We’re doing something we’ve never done before. It just takes a while for you to get used to it both physically and mentally. You’re not penetrating upfield, you’re not trying to get into the backfield. You’re more reading and moving sideways rather than vertical.”
So, it’s a less aggressive approach, but not exactly passive either, right?
“Right. When we’re in our base 3-4, for us, it’s not so much an aggressive mindset. It’s more so read and react. He goes left, I go right. He goes right, I go left. So it’s not, I’m penetrating to get into the backfield. It’s definitely not as aggressive, but at the same, if a guy’s coming out at you, you have to be aggressive then, because you can’t get pushed back. Your job is to take on take on the double teams, your job is to hold the block so the linebackers can run around.”
You started every game as a rookie in 2007, then battled some injuries. How good does it feel to have all that behind you and to be able to consistently be on the field?
“It feels good. My rookie year I played well, second year I was riddled with injuries, third year I got put on IR, so when I got a chance to come here, it was an awesome opportunity.”
What’s something that not a lot of people know about Adam Carriker?
“Hmmm, well everybody knows about the wrestling thing. (Carriker is an avid pro wrestling fan). Another thing, I love four-wheelers. I grew up four-wheeling. I don’t get to do it very much anymore, because I don’t live near my parents. But we had four-wheelers, we had a boat. I just love doing outdoorsy stuff. I can’t do any water skiing or snow skiing right now just because of what I do, but when I retire, I’m going to live on the mountain, I’m going to live on the lake.
“We just built a house and it’s on a lake, so I bought a boat. I drive that around, take the wife out for her to go water skiing. I do do the knee-boarding, because I feel like that’s pretty safe. If I fall off, it’s maybe foot either way. Just doing that kind of stuff, hanging out with the kids. My son [Jacob] is 2, he loves the boat. He can be irate and you put him on the boat and he is so solemn and quiet. He sees the boat and it’s ‘Boat, boat, boat!’ He loves it.”
Does your son understand what you do for a living?
“I’ve never really told him, but I think his mom has explained it. Any time football comes on TV, I can be sitting right next to him even and he says ‘Daddy tackle! Daddy tackle!’ We have a little Redskins blowup tackling dummy and he’ll go in there and tackle it on the trampoline and yells, ‘Daddy tackle!’ He gets it for right now.”
What do you want to do with your life post-football?
“Everybody asks me and I never have an answer. It’s funny because growing up, everyone would say, ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ and they wouldn’t let me say, ‘professional athlete,’ because they’d say, ‘You’re not going to make it!’ So I never had an answer. Even in Nebraska, my first two years, I did general studies and then it came to my third year and I had to declare, and I said, ‘Dad, I don’t know what I’m going to choose.’ And he said, ‘Just go business. You really have no clue? Well just go business because the money’s always there.’ It’s still the same thing. When I’m done playing sports, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ll probably join rec. leagues, flag football leagues, tennis. Something sports. It’s all I know.”