IRVING (AP) — Brandon Carr had a quiet moment during training camp to ponder his first year as the big-money guy in the Dallas secondary.
The easy smile suggested Carr wasn’t overwhelmed by the label of “$50 million cornerback” — the biggest free agent investment in a defensive back by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones since Deion Sanders nearly two decades ago. And he certainly wasn’t complaining about it.
Now he’s playing like an expensive star, and more comfortable with the idea that he’s supposed to be one as he gets ready to face Detroit’s Calvin Johnson on Sunday.
“I pretty much feel like I’m kind of unbreakable right now, in the sense that I took my lumps, been labeled this, labeled that, poor play, this and that, bad games,” Carr said Wednesday. “I took all those lumps and now I’m still here, still standing, still trying to perfect my craft.”
Carr wasn’t bad in the first year of a five-year, $50 million contract with about half that guaranteed. He helped win a game with an interception in overtime and led the team with three picks last season.
In the past two weeks, he’s really stood out.
Washington’s Pierre Garcon and Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson had just nine catches among 23 targets combined, and Carr had five of his team-leading nine pass breakups.
All of which means nothing to Carr with Johnson on the horizon.
“This is by far the best receiver I have faced in my career,” said Carr, who has started all 87 games since Kansas City drafted him in the fifth round in 2008.
“For my coaches to have confidence to allow me to go out there and challenge for 60 minutes, it gives me confidence. Now it’s time to go play and time to have fun.”
Carr’s first season in Dallas wasn’t all fun and games.
Jovan Belcher, one of his teammates in Kansas City, fatally shot his girlfriend before driving to the Chiefs’ facility and killing himself.
A week later, Dallas practice squad player Jerry Brown died in a car accident that led to intoxication manslaughter charges against teammate Josh Brent. Carr attended two memorial services in less than a week.
On the field, he was solid if not spectacular, as might have been expected from many with the big salary.
Plus, the Cowboys gave up the most yards in team history, and the secondary looked helpless against Drew Brees in a late-season loss to New Orleans that helped keep Dallas out of the playoffs.
“Last year, trying to juggle a lot of things, new environment, the expectations of what everybody says I’m supposed to do because of the contract and this and that,” Carr said. “Kind of played with my psyche for a minute. In this league, you have to be resilient. You have to just be hard-nosed, thick skin. And I get all that now.”
Fellow cornerback Orlando Scandrick isn’t sure Carr had the burden of the big money on him.
“Brandon didn’t sign himself to that deal,” Scandrick said. “You have a burden to me normally when something is given to you. Nothing was really given to Brandon. He went out and earned it.”
There’s not any question about whether Carr is earning his money now.
He’s already within two pass breakups of his total from last season. If he has another couple of weeks like the past two, he’ll have a shot at his career high of 23 from the third of four seasons with the Chiefs.
Coach Jason Garrett gets a lot of questions about Carr these days, which gives him a chance to remind everyone that his high-priced defensive back plays specials teams too.
“He’s played well since we’ve gotten him,” coach Jason Garrett said. “One of the best things he did in the game the other day was play special teams, defending their gunners down the field.
“So whether it’s a Wednesday morning practice or playing against the best receiver on defense or trying to slow down a gunner, he does it the right way.”
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