Former Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter left the New York Jets during their playoff run to enroll in a drug rehabilitation program, according to media reports. The New York Times reported that according to its sources, Carter was in a rehab program in January. The report did not say what led to Carter's enrollment or if he had failed a drug test. ESPN reported that Carter had entered a treatment center to deal with drug rehabilitation and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Carter and his agent were not available for comment Sunday. In the Times report, the Jets declined to comment on Carter's status. The NFL does not comment on players in its substance-abuse program.
Carter, the backup to starter Chad Pennington, was declared inactive before the Jets' playoff game against the Steelers on Jan. 15, and the team said he had left to be with his ill mother. The Cowboys released Carter during training camp last August. At the time, club sources indicated Carter had violated the league's substance-abuse policy.
This story remains puzzling. Clearly, something significant happened to cause the Cowboys to unceremoniously dump Carter. And yet he played (or, mostly, sat) the entire regular season before going into rehab. Very curious, indeed.
The NYT report in question: Carter Skipped Jets' Playoff Game to Enroll for Rehab (rss)
Quincy Carter, the Jets' backup quarterback who was signed last summer amid reports that he had failed a drug test, left the team in the middle of its playoff run to enroll in a drug rehabilitation program, according to people who have been briefed on his status. When Carter was declared inactive before the Jets' divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 15, the Jets said that he had left the team to attend to his sick mother. But those familiar with his situation said that Carter's weeklong absence, which started shortly after the Jets' playoff victory over the San Diego Chargers on Jan. 8, was initiated with the team's permission and that he began participating in a program in Houston that was run by John Lucas, the former N.B.A. player and coach.
This was the second time in a month that the Jets were found to have been less than forthcoming about the status of one of their players. Late last month, team doctors acknowledged that they had played down the severity of an injury sustained by quarterback Chad Pennington in a game against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 7. They initially said he had a strained right shoulder but announced on Jan. 25 that he actually had a torn rotator cuff.
Carter, 27, joined the Jets on Aug. 24, 20 days after being released by the Dallas Cowboys amid reports that he had failed a drug test for the second time in his N.F.L. career and was another violation away from a suspension. The Jets brought Carter aboard to fill their most glaring need on offense: a veteran backup for Pennington, who had missed the first six games of 2003 after breaking his left wrist during a preseason game. A second-round pick by the Cowboys in 2001, Carter certainly brought experience to the Jets, coming with 10 more regular-season starts than Pennington. And the Jets' investment in Carter appeared sound after Pennington was forced to sit out three games with his shoulder injury.
Although Carter had been studying the Jets' playbook for about two months, he was steady as Pennington's replacement and finished the season with some of the best statistics of his career: he completed 35 of 58 passes for 498 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. Carter's passer rating with the Jets (98.2) was more than 25 points higher than his best passer rating (72.3) in with Dallas.
On several occasions this season, Carter - who had started as a freshman at the University of Georgia and as a rookie with the Cowboys - said that it was more than a bit jarring to suddenly be playing second string. As the season progressed, he seemed reconciled to his role and talked about using his experience with the Jets to find a starting job with another team through free agency. Even before the revelations about Carter, the Jets faced an off-season filled with uncertainty at quarterback.
Pennington is expected to have surgery to repair his rotator cuff in the next few days and will be unable to participate in off-season workouts. Although team doctors have said that they hoped Pennington would be ready for training camp and could play a full season, his effectiveness, particularly early on, may be limited. With Brooks Bollinger now the only healthy quarterback on the roster - another quarterback, Ricky Ray, is on the practice squad - the Jets are again in the market for an experienced backup. Bollinger, a sixth-round draft pick in 2003, has thrown only nine regular-season passes.