David Carr has thrown 2,264 passes and started 79 games in 10 NFL regular seasons. But the veteran quarterback is looking forward to the Giants' preseason opener tomorrow in Jacksonville with the same enthusiasm as a rookie about to suit up in the NFL for the first time.
That's what happens when you're the backup behind Eli Manning, who has started 130 consecutive games (including 11 in the postseason) and takes a play off about as often as tigers fly. Carr didn't throw a single pass in the regular season or postseason for the Super Bowl champion Giants in 2011. In the previous four seasons – three with the Giants and 2010 with the San Francisco 49ers – he had 55 attempts and 38 completions.
Thus, Carr's only real action is in the preseason. So…bring on the Jaguars!
"You never know if you're going to get another shot in the regular season," Carr said. "Eli has been very durable and it's a credit to him and the staff and how they protect the quarterback and the whole thing. So yeah, I look forward to getting some playing time.
"These preseason games are fun for me because I see all these young guys coming in and they're trying to learn and trying to pick it up and you kind of feel like you get to take the coach role on the field and it helps you to prepare. I find myself teaching those guys the small details of what's going on and then that kind of helps me learn it, too. I enjoy the preseason."
In the 2011 preseason, Carr completed an impressive 27 of 44 passes (61.4 percent) for 236 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. When the regular season began he became a spectator with a close vantage point. But Carr prepares each week as if he's going to play. He and Manning are friends and Carr never complains about not playing.
That last statement is more significant than it might seem. Carr was the first overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, by the expansion Houston Texans. He started all 16 games as a rookie and 75 of the 76 games in which he played in five years in Houston. It can be difficult for a former starter to stand and watch someone else play, but Carr handles his new status with uncommon equanimity.
"I really do feel comfortable in my role here," he said. "Obviously, every quarterback, every player wants to play and get their shot. But at the same time, I know what's expected of me every day I come to work; whether it be in the preseason, whether it be in the regular season, I know what my job is. I know what I have to do. In that case, it makes it easy because you have a great staff around you. These guys have been unbelievable. It's so comfortable when I go out there knowing (offensive coordinator) Kevin (Gilbride) is going to call the right plays and the offensive line is so good. There's a reason why Eli hasn't missed a game in forever - because they do a great job here of protecting the quarterback. A lot of it is on the quarterback, but I like that."
Carr's most consistent contribution is never seen by the fans. In practice, he runs the opposing team's plays against the Giants' defense. Carr is an ideal scout team quarterback, because he can be a drop-back passer when they are preparing to face Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan, or he can move in the pocket and run when the defense is preparing for Michael Vick or Tony Romo.
"That's when I'm really not shy," Carr said. "When I'm going against our guys on defense, I know they're the best in the world, the world champs. I give them everything I got. If I have to simulate a guy running around, I feel like I can do that and throw on the move. I can also emulate drop-back quarterbacks like Tom Brady, which I did last year before the Super Bowl and the other game we played. I feel like I can do whatever I have to do. I think they get a good look.
"They coaches let me know they appreciate what I do. It's not just Coach (Tom) Coughlin and Gilbride, the guys on the offensive side of the ball, which they do. But the defensive coaches, they'll come to me week-in and week-out saying that they appreciate what I'm doing. Appreciate the time that I spend just trying to get those guys ready as well as getting myself prepared. They make me feel like I'm actually helping the team out, which is good."
Although he has spent considerable time in the spotlight, Carr is happy in the relative anonymity most backup quarterbacks toil in. He is somewhat amused by the attention Jets reserve Tim Tebow receives. Carr didn't hold a news conference when he re-signed with the Giants on March 22, he doesn't have a legion of reporters chronicling his every move and, given Manning's brilliance, doesn't have fans clamoring for him to become the starter.
"It's kind of funny how a guy with two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVPs is the third- or fourth-most popular quarterback," said Carr. "Eli and I just brush it off. You know how he is - we kind of like it that way. We relish the underdog role. We go out in the morning and do our work. We show up and study like we're first-year guys and we go about our business the same way. We try to get our guys better and then see what happens in the game. We don't really get caught up in all the other stuff."
To Carr, it's the perfect professional environment, even if he seldom plays.
"We won two Super Bowls in the last few years and we just go about our business and that's what I like about this team. From day one, you come in and you know what's expected of you. We've had a great nucleus of guys here. From the moment I came back last year, it was just like we jumped back into a family reunion. It's such a strong leadership deal on this team that coaches don't ever have to worry about it. Guys kind of police themselves. It's very comforting, especially being in some of the jungles I've been in on other teams. It's very comforting."