BY GEOFF HOBSON
Tom Carter has played just six quarters for the Bengals. But for a man who has played with men who gave no quarter, such as Darrell Green and Art Monk, he can't help but wade into the locker room and offer a hand to younger teammates.
"I reached out to them,'' Carter said the other day at Spinney Field. "They want to learn. They want to know. They see me at peace with my life and they kind of want to know what it's all about. I learned from guys like Darrell Green, Tim Johnson, Charles Mann, Art Monk. Not just about football, but spiritual life, too."
The Bengals picked Carter, 27 off waivers Dec. 16 near the end of his seventh season and he instantly became the Bengals senior cornerback by four years. By his first practice two days later, he was their best cover corner.
Carter doesn't have to worry. His $4.6 million salary over the next two seasons isn't going to get him cut. But his experience breaking in with those classy Green-Monk-Mann-Johnson Redskins of the early '90s and his professional demeanor annoints him a leader in a locker room needing one with some seasoning.
After one informal Spinney workout last week, Carter sat at the head of a table in the cafeteria flanked by five-year-old son Alex and a group of about eight or nine players that included quarterback Akili Smith.
You could call it a bible study, but as linebacker Adrian Ross said, "it was about life, work, living. . .He's been different places. We want to know what other teams are doing so we can turn it around and win."
Carter remembered when he was a first-round draft pick of the Redskins out of Notre Dame in 1993 and he led them and all NFL rookies with six interceptions.
"When I was their age, I went to the older guys for help," Carter said. "When your peers are going through the same stuff, sometimes you don't know how to handle it. I hope these guys feel like they can ask me any question, from finances to relationships, and I'll give them a solid, non-biased answer. That's my thing. Not to be judgmental. Everyone on this team has a story. It's nice to find someone with a common thread."
Carter's story is an only child from a single-parent home in St. Petersburg, Fla. He can't relate to the guns and the drugs because he says he grew up "a little church (kid)," but it was an integrated church that preached unity. After four seasons in Washington, three with the Bears and 25 NFL interceptions, his story looks to be settling in here.
"I'm not looking to gain anything from them,'' said Carter of his new teammates. "I just want to help. They learn by looking, not by anybody talking. I'm just trying to strengthen the walk."