FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots defensive end Markell Carter had a crash-course introduction into the NFL last year, after the NFL lockout wiped out organized offseason workouts for the 2011 sixth-round pick. This weekend, Carter is one of six first-year players participating in the team's rookie minicamp.
"Whenever coach gives you the opportunity to learn more, you take it," Carter told reporters at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. "Just having these extra two days to be in the meeting room, to be back on the field, doing drills, it's going to give me a head start.
"A year ago, this weekend I was sitting on my couch. I'd work out in the morning two hours and then after that have the whole day to myself," he continued. "Now I'm more organized. I'm more of a professional. I understand my role and I understand what I have to do to achieve that role."
Carter spent all of last season on the practice squad, and was given a pay raise by the Patriots to help keep him from signing with another NFL team.
"There was no bitterness or anything like that, that I wasn't able to play," Carter said. "[The raise] was a little bit more motivation, but to me it was like they wanted me here, but they gave me this pay raise to show me how much they invested in me, so I need to invest some more into them as well."
This offseason, Carter's 21-year old sister, Keyarrie Hudson, is moving in with her older brother. Hudson suffers from lupus, and living in the Boston area gives her access to better specialists for the condition than what is available back home in Oklahoma.
"She's really strong. A lot stronger than me. Lupus probably would have been the end of me," Carter said. "For her, it was just a new chapter in her life. She just took it on full force.
"It's always been me and my little sister since I was [young]. Just to see her go through those struggles, see how she had a smile on her face even though I knew it was hurting her. Just how she stayed in her faith, and how she didn't lose herself," he continued. "A lot of people would have been depressed and lost who they were, but she never lost that. She was that same girl as she was before and after."
Carter, who played at 250 pounds as a senior at Central Arkansas, is now up to 275 pounds, gaining about 10 pounds this offseason.
"I still feel like my quickness is still there, forward and laterally," he said. "I feel like I'm a lot more stronger in my punch. My explosiveness is [better]. My strength is [better]."