If you want to know what kind of makeup Jets' GM Joe Douglas and HC Robert Saleh are looking for in a player, you can stop your search at RB Michael Carter. After leading the Jets with 639 rush yards and 4 TDs in the the 2021 NFL season\, the North Carolina product, a fourth-round pick last April, was at the Super Bowl this week and stopped by NFL Network and was asked about Saleh, the Jets' senior bowl HC Ron Middleton and the rest of the staff.
"Shout-out to both of them," Carter said of Saleh and Middleton. "It's really cool to be a part of that because I love the game the same way they do. It's really easy to play for a Coach and a whole staff that loves the game. There are people at every level of football that play for what comes with it — not play for the love of it. I'm one of those people, not that I'm going to, but I would play for free. I'm not going to, but that's just a metaphor for how much I really love football. I really do. I pour my heart and soul into the game. Being around guys who do everything the same way I want to do it, just put their all into it, I like being around people like that. It makes me want to play harder for them."
With Sunday's title game approaching that pits the Bengals against the Rams, Carter was asked about the Jets' 34-31 conquest of the Bengals in Week 8 at MetLife Stadium. Carter was a cat the Cats couldn't catch all afternoon, rushing for 77 yards on 15 carries with a TD and hauling in 9 passes from Mike White for 95 yards.
"They did win the AFC North, so if you can win that division, [Joe] Burrow said it, you can win the whole thing," Carter said. "They were one of the best teams in the league at that point, too. People kind of write them off because it's the Cincinnati Bengals, but what they did in the past does not control what they do in the future like right now. It's something I can relate to right now playing for the New York Jets where they've had some struggles in the past, but that's not my fault. I didn't do that, that's just what it's been. Our team, we kind of feel the same way they do."
The Bengals' win total increased from 2 in 2019 to 4 in 2020 to 10 in this season. A week after the Jets took down the Bengals, some sportsbooks listed the Bengals as +6500 to win the Super Bowl.
"I didn't know they were going to be in the Super Bowl," Carter said. "I guess the betting odds weren't in their favor at the time, but I thought they were a good team. Our division is tough, too. But it's a matter of there is a lot of change going on in our division, so it's a matter of who can shorten that curve and get it going the fastest and staying consistent."
Before visiting with Maurice-Jones Drew and Colleen Wolfe on the NFL Network set, the humble Carter was thrilled to get introduced to the NFL's fourth-leading rusher, Barry Sanders.
"I'm here with some great people right now," he said. "MJD was kind of like this is Michael Carter. Something small like keep up the good work means a lot to me."
In his first rookie campaign, Carter appeared in 14 games while totaling 964 yards from scrimmage. In addition to reiterating his love for the game, Carter acknowledged Year 1 was a long one for any rookie, especially some members of the Bengals and Rams who are about to suit up in their 24th game.
"For a couple of days, I didn't move," he said of his activity when the season closed. "I didn't. It's a matter for me right now of getting back to 100 percent healthy, so I think that's been my main goal for like a month and a half. I do feel good right now, so probably in the next week or two, I'll probably get back to it and then try to be the best next year."