Penn State tight end Carter nearly set for return

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Kyle Carter is easy to spot. He's tall, even for a Penn State football player, and gregarious, quick to smile and laugh and at ease when telling stories.

He's also one of the few wearing a red jersey at practices this spring because his pesky wrist is not quite 100 percent.

As a result, he's not participating in contact drills and will not play in the spring game.

But it's getting there.

"If I had to play a game now I'd be able to," he said.

Carter never had been seriously injured before and did not think he was this time, either, after a Nebraska defensive back fell on his right wrist late last season.

"It was a freak accident," he said.

Doctors were performing surgery a few days later. His season was over, ended by a dislocation and torn ligaments.

Despite being cut short, his freshman season was memorable. Carter finished with 453 receiving yards (second on the team) and two touchdowns.

He had fit snugly into coach Bill O'Brien's concept of a tight end, overhauling Penn State fans' expectations of what a tight end in blue and white could do.

Carter's disappointment over the injury was obvious.

He attended practices and games, standing around and watching his teammates perform, but they could tell he was down.

Carter said they helped him a lot by talking to him as he went through rehab. His roommates, Adrian Amos, Allen Robinson and Bill Belton would offer to open his Gatorade bottles at the apartment ... sometimes.

"I don't know too much about opening Gatorade for him, but we'd give him a hand," said Amos, laughing.

Carter didn't need assistance for long.

His journey back to playing football again started with catching tennis balls.

When he switched to footballs again, he could only catch for a while with his left hand.

But there he was at Holuba Hall. The other receivers watched on as he caught pass after pass with his left.

"He pressed the issue to get back as fast as he could," Robinson said.

Carter won the team's "Rehab Award" for the winter.

By about February, he could use both hands to catch again. He said he was ahead of schedule.

When Carter couldn't play or catch, negative thoughts would settle in. He'd wonder if he'd be as effective of a blocker or pass-catcher or if he would think about his injury all the time after the wrist had healed.

Now, he sees benefits to the injury and the time off from football.

He remembers to keep his hands tucked in while blocking.

He focuses more on catching and gripping the ball rather than relaxing once it hits his hands.

When he returns, he'll be one of a handful of talented tight ends for Penn State, including fellow sophomore Jesse James, freshman Adam Breneman and redshirt freshman Brent Wilkerson.

Carter is ready to join them, to be healthy. "Everyone knows we have an embarrassment of riches at tight end."

Looking ahead

• What: Blue White scrimmage, the traditional end to Penn State's spring practice.

• When: Noon Saturday.

• TV: Big Ten Network.

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Mark Dent: and Twitter @mdent05.


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