The stadium in Oakland is known as “The Black Hole.”
For new Tennessee Titan Chris Carr, the black hole also describes where he felt his career was while spending his first three seasons with the Raiders.
“That’s an understatement to say it’s a little nicer here. It’s just so many things that go on over there, and it’s disheartening too because you don’t win any football games,” said Carr, who signed with Tennessee this offseason as a restricted free agent.
To Carr’s delight, the Raiders chose not to match the Titans’ offer of just under $2 million for the 2008 season, even though they received no compensation in return for surrendering the return man and defensive back to the Titans.
Carr, 25, expected to make his exodus from Oakland despite his undrafted status coming out of Boise State in 2005.
“I felt I was going to be picked up somewhere else. Plus, with me being undrafted, I knew there wasn’t going to be any compensation,” Carr said. “I felt that Oakland was pretty stacked with DBs, and especially later on when they got DeAngelo Hall, I felt there was no way they were going to match the offer. So I knew there was a good chance I was going to leave.”
He is happy to be out of the Raiders’ organization, which he said was filled with other issues that played a role in the team’s lack of success. In Carr’s three seasons with the Raiders, the team was 10-38.
“It’s tough, and it’s kind of bittersweet, because I loved all those coaches there and I loved my teammates, I really do,” Carr said. “But there’s just so much other stuff going on there that it makes it so difficult. After a while you just want to leave, and I was a free agent and got a shot to leave, and coming to a team like this, I’m glad to be here and be on a playoff-caliber team.”
Asked if any of his ex-teammates in Oakland were envious of his escape to Tennessee, Carr said, “I’ll plead the fifth on that one. They’re trying as hard as they can in their situation, so I won’t comment on that one.”
The Titans are happy to have Carr, who will likely take over as their primary return man in at least one capacity this season. The Titans struggled to find punt and kickoff returners last season with Adam “Pacman” Jones suspended, and Carr has experience in both roles. He averaged 24.1 yards per return on kickoffs and 5.9 yards per return on punts, though he fielded only eight punts in 2007. He was the Raiders’ primary punt returner during his first two seasons with the club.
“I did punt return my first two years, and last year was kind of off and on. Like in Oakland, there’s a lot of stuff going on there that you don’t understand. It’s just whatever,” Carr said.
Carr will likely receive competition from first-round pick Chris Johnson on kickoff returns, and perhaps from Chris Davis on punt returns.
“Chris Carr is out here fielding punts and he’s doing very well, despite the fact that he only returned kickoffs for [the Raiders] last season,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “Chris Johnson can return, and Chris Davis can. If your name is Chris, you can do it. It’s wide open, and never in my experience here have we had this many good returners.”
But Carr hopes to do much more than just return kicks. Right now, his role is to provide depth at safety, cornerback and nickelback as well as returns.
“All these DBs here are pretty well established and all of them are pretty good,” Carr said. “I’m just hoping to play wherever, whether it’s at safety, corner or the nickel. Whatever I can do to get on the field, hopefully, I can get as good as possible at all the spots. Hopefully, I can be on the field on Sundays and just not on returns.
“I play a lot of spots and a lot of different positions on the football field. It doesn’t matter to me what they want me to do, because I know can do a lot of things well. Whatever they want me to do on this team, I’ll do it.”