The Cowboys knew when they drafted Bruce Carter that they wouldn't get much out of him during his rookie year. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a Nov. 20, 2010, game against North Carolina State and underwent reconstructive surgery Dec. 14, 2010.
But the knee injury was the only reason Carter was there for the Cowboys in the second round of the 2011 draft. They had a first-round grade on the former North Carolina linebacker.
Carter has come a long way since then. He was with the first-team defense Wednesday and will compete with Dan Connor for the starting job next to Sean Lee. Connor signed a two-year, $6.5 million deal in the off-season.
Carter played only 41 snaps on defense last season, but he did get experience on special teams, where he made eight tackles.
"Him coming in and not playing because he was hurt, you have to be out there doing it to fully understand it," Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. "It’s one thing to see a power-point presentation, video clips and me up on grease board drawing it up. Once you hear it, you kind of forget what it is. You see it, you sort of kind of remember. Then, when you do it on the field, you fully understand. It’s been great to work with him. He’s really made progress so far in terms of the off-season program. These first two days, he’s done a real nice job."
Carter has improved this off-season, and the Cowboys expect him to have a bright future. Lee had a similar start to his Cowboys' career, arriving with a knee injury that dropped his draft stock. Though he played more than Carter did as a rookie, Lee took a step up in 2011 with a team-leading 131 tackles. The Cowboys would love a similar season for Carter in his second season.
"He’s really come into the off-season program and embraced it," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s gotten better physically. I think he’s healthier than he was last year at this time certainly, and you can just see he’s getting more and more comfortable. He needs to play more football. He needs to play at a higher level both in terms of his understanding of scheme but also just how you play relentless. That’s how you need to play football. He’s starting to understand that. You see flashes of that. He just needs to do it more and more, and he’s getting better."
-- Charean Williams