FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter has been skewered -- and rightly so, I might add -- for his remarks at last year's NFL Rookie Symposium, where he told players that they should have a "fall guy" willing to go to jail. It was a dumb thing to say, and after being lambasted for his comments, Carter apologized on Twitter for sending the wrong message.
And make no mistake, it was the wrong message, even if Carter was actually trying to help the rookie class avoid the kind of problems that Carter went through during his early days in the NFL. Find a guy willing to go to jail so the player can avoid it? Ridiculous.
But to at least some of the players who heard Carter's remarks, the underlying message did resonate with the players -- for all the right reasons.
"It was probably not the best way to set an example for the rookies, but at the same time, he does have a point, where maybe you have to have a backup plan," Jets tight end Jace Amaro, who sat through the symposium last year, said Monday. "You have to have that one guy that's going to take care of you, and that's the point he was trying to make."
Unfortunately for Carter, he can't unsay the words or take back the explicit comments about players needing a "fall guy" willing to go to jail.
"You all are not going to all do the right stuff," said Carter, whose speech was captured on video and was posted on the league's website until Sunday, when word got out he had made the remarks. The video was then removed from NFL.com.
"So I got to teach you all how to get around all this stuff, too. If you're going to have a crew, one of those fools got to know he's going to jail. We'll get him out."
Carter apologized in a series of tweets, and the NFL immediately distanced itself from the remarks. So did ESPN, for whom Carter works as a football analyst.
But Amaro, as well as teammate Calvin Pryor, another second-year player who attended the symposium, defended Carter's intentions, if not his words.
"I know he said 'fall guy,' and it gives him a bad look and it gives the NFL a bad look, because we've had some guys that have gotten in trouble recently," Amaro said. "I think he had our best interests, though. I don't think he was just trying to give us a scapegoat or anything like that. I think he had our best interests and it was taken out of context."
Actually, it wasn't taken out of context, because Carter clearly said the words. And given the level of outrage being expressed as a result of his remarks -- including by many former players who ripped Carter -- it's impossible to avoid or change the message.
Carter overcame substance abuse issues early in his career. "He's been through a lot," Pryor said. "He had a football career for a long time, and he had his problems early on. Some might misinterpret it and some might relate to it. Some people might think he was trying to be sarcastic, but others might think he was looking out for players."
Pryor falls into the latter category. Asked if he related to some of what Carter was saying, he said, "No doubt about it, because you go through college, you really don't have much. But once you reach the NFL, people think you have it all and people have their hands out . . . I can understand where he's coming from."
Too bad Carter couldn't find the right words to make his point. Instead, he used a horrible lack of judgment and wound up clouding an important subject by sending a completely inappropriate and reckless message.