MINNEAPOLIS -- Cris Carter has made no secret of his gratitude for what the Minnesota Vikings did to help him turn his life around, and the Hall of Fame receiver is doing his best to put his affections for his former team aside as his son Duron visits with them on Thursday and Friday.
"I'm trying my best to be non-partisan," Carter said on Thursday. "But strange things have happened. Minnesota has been good to the Carters."
For Cris Carter, though, the biggest thrill in the process might be the fact that his 23-year-old son is earning significant NFL interest because of what he's done, not because of what his father did.
After a rookie minicamp tryout with the Vikings in 2013, Duron Carter chose to sign with Montreal Alouettes, rather than go through training camp in Minnesota. He played two seasons in the CFL, caught 75 passes for 1,030 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and has received significant NFL interest from teams like the Vikings, Colts, Chiefs, 49ers, Browns and Panthers, among others.
He will work out for the Vikings on Friday, and could still visit with San Francisco, Cleveland or Carolina after his trip to Minnesota. He isn't able to sign with a team until Feb. 10, but can agree to a deal before then. Things could move quickly with the Vikings if his visit goes well; the team has kept in touch with him since his 2013 tryout, and a NFL source said the Vikings' interest in Duron Carter is "beyond a workout" this time around.
Duron Carter might have had a more traditional path to the NFL if not for academic issues at Ohio State and Alabama, but the elder Carter, who works as an analyst on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," said his son's time in the CFL gave him the valuable experience he missed in Division I college football.
"It was everything for him," Cris Carter said. "He didn’t have the game experience, he didn’t have the consistency, he didn’t have the competition it would take to be a professional. The opportunity he had in Montreal, it was really just player development. We're pretty used to the system -- you go to high school, play football, you go to college, play football and you try to make it in NFL. But there are other ways of getting there, if you're talented, you persevere and you get a good break."
Cris Carter said he wants the best situation for his son, and knows the Vikings have to make their own business decisions, too. "It's not going to affect how I ever feel about the Vikings," he said. "(General manager) Rick (Spielman)'s got to get the best players he can get. I respect that. Under no circumstances do the Vikings feel like Duron is being forced on them. They are the ones that pursued him."
That's because of the son's accomplishments, not the father's. And no matter Duron Carter's next destination, his path to this point has made his dad proud.
"His trail led to the CFL," Cris Carter said. "Him playing in the NFL is more realistic than two years ago."