Jets running back Michael Carter is a soft-spoken guy, but that doesn't mean his words make any less of an impact.
He credits his tight family background with helping to lay the groundwork for his successful rookie season in the NFL, saying it did indeed take a village "because I'd be nothing without them."
But then ... "My problem is communication," he told senior team reporter Eric Allen in an edition of "The Official Jets Podcast."
"I don't like picking up the phone much, calling or texting," he said. "I like to send voice memos. Say what I want to say and that's it. I mean I text. I'm not an old man. It's more like FaceTime. 'What's the plan? OK, bye.' I send voice memos, say what's up, I'm thinking about you so they can hear my voice.
"Most days I'm all by myself. I like it that way. But I'm also social, I need that. But I also find myself feeling drained if I'm around people for too long. I got to have my alone time. It's super important for me, though I love being around good people. Good energy charges me back up."
Perhaps communication is not his strong suit, though running (and catching) the football during his rookie season in 2021 certainly were.
A fourth-round pick out of North Carolina in 2021, he emerged as the team's lead back and finished 64 yards shy of breaking 1,000 scrimmage yards. He logged his first game of 100 scrimmage yards in Game 6 at New England and had three for the season — the first Jets rookie with that many 100-yard from scrimmage games in the regular season since Leon Washington in 2006. Carter got his first 100-yard rushing game (118 yards on 16 carries) against Jacksonville.
"One thing learned last year is that this is a 'consistently' league, you can't just have one good game, you have to do it every weekend, every single day," Carter said during the Jets' OTAs. "I look up to C.J. [Mosley] and I look to [George] Fant. Two OGs who have played in this league for a long while. And they do everything single thing the right way. I appreciate them and their professionalism rubs off on me. Here having someone to show me the ropes, and I include TeCo [Tevin Coleman], it's been really cool."
He added: "This year, I have more time to prepare, which is great, allowing me to take my game to the next level. It's what we're all trying to do. No disrespect to rookie program, but now I get to go home and I don't want to do anything, don't have to do all that studying. Now I plan my days the way I want to. It's only going to make my game better."
At this year's NFL Combine, Jets general manager, speaking about Carter, tagged him with a nickname: Young MC.
"I like it, only because of how he said it and the context," Carter said. "I appreciate Joe and the way he does stuff, but I do think the nickname needs work. I'd rather go by The Voice -- because I know what to say, and I can be a voice for people who are thinking something that they don't have the courage to say. One thing: I'm happy to say what's on my mind. But when it comes to a nickname, I can't give myself one."
At 5-8 and playing at a weight of around 201, 202 pounds, Carter has a low center of gravity and powerful legs that don't often allow defenders to drag him down on the first try. He takes pride in his ability to break tackles, a mindset that goes back to his younger days playing youth football. Carter's 99.4 elusive grade on PFF last season was third among all running backs and first among rookies. His 71.3 overall grade was fifth among rookie RBs and his 77.7 run grade was third.
"I get super pissed," Carter said of being tackled on a defender's first attempt. "I get so mad. It's super embarrassing to me because I've always been taught that. My dad before a game would tell me, 'Look to have a good game, don't let the first man tackle you.' Every game he'd say that. But it does happen. I think of the Titans, I think the second play when I took a pitch left and got crushed [by LB David Long], and don't go down. I stayed on my feet, that's the balance to break a tackle, and I'm about to take it down field for a first down and the guy swipes at my ankle. I still think about a couple of those. It keeps me up at night."
Though he missed three games with an ankle injury, Carter has emerged as the team's No. 1 running back, though in the scheme run by offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, running-back-by-committee is the general design. Coleman re-signed with the team and the roster now also includes Ty Johnson and La'Mical Perrine, plus the Jets' second-round draft pick -- Iowa State running back Breece Hall.
"He's humble and confident, that's what you need in this league," Carter said. "He knows there are going to be times when it's tough, it's just the nature of the beast. He's been asking questions. He's super cool. I hit him up on draft day to congratulate him. He can run, he's fast and he can block."
And there should be enough work to go around.
Carter returns for his second season along with a host of the 2021 Jets draft class, a group that includes "beefed-up" quarterback Zach Wilson.
"Last season we trauma bonded," Carter said with a laugh. "We were playing so hard for each other. You're a rookie, don't know a lot, but I know these dudes go to war for me and me for them. You have to let the players grow and develop. Winning is the only thing that matters. Look at a guy who rushes for 1,200 yards but his team only wins three, four games. Is he going to the Pro Bowl? No, he's going home. How are you going to be one of the best players in the league when your team sucks? People see it when your team sucks, you suck. That's what it is."
See all of the best images from the practice field during the first three OTA practices.