Lions rookie CB Alex Carter plunges into cram mode

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Lions rookie Alex Carter joined the team for OTAs after missing earlier sessions to finish up classes at Stanford.

Allen Park — School is finally over for Alex Carter, the Lions third-round pick who had to return to Stanford while other rookies adjusted to life in the NFL.

Because he spent three years in college, Carter had to finish the school year before fully participating with his teammates. In addition to his three classes, Carter spent afternoons watching film of the OTAs he missed, trying to replicate the drills. He also spoke to cornerbacks coach Tony Oden nearly every day.

"It was difficult, but I could manage it," Carter said of balancing his academics with his pro duties. "That's kind of what we learn at Stanford is time management, so I just have to manage it."

For the past two weeks, Carter said he had three classes in the morning, two psychology and one religious studies. After that, he would work out and later watch film Lions coaches uploaded for him to watch. Then, he'd go out and practice what he could, most of the time by himself, to make sure he was using proper technique.

With classes ending last Thursday, Carter arrived for OTAs on Monday.

"The first day always presents some challenges, but after that I got my feet under me," he said. "Day 2 was better, Day 3 was great."

Carter had some solid moments during practice Wednesday. During a one-on-one drill, he intercepted a pass from Anthony Boone to Vernon Johnson. He was also in coverage against Andrew Peacock and helped force a drop, and played extensively during special teams.

"He's gotten baptized, and I think you could see that coach Oden had him out there doing a little extra after practice is over with trying to catch up," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Now, I think he did a nice job of doing what the league allows us to do in terms of his studies and visiting with … coach Oden whenever he could.

"But it's nothing like being here, getting the reps. So he's trying to make up for that, but I thought he's acclimated fairly well."

Exactly what Carter's role will be for the Lions remains to be seen, and likely won't be determined until after the exhibition season. At 6-foot and 196 pounds, Carter profiles as an outside cornerback and could be a backup to Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis.

The Lions also showed last year they're not committed to having just a shorter cornerback at the nickel when they utilized a three-safety look. Carter will learn the inside duties and compete for time there, too, with Josh Wilson, Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson and sixth-round pick Quandre Diggs.

Now that he's with the team, Carter said one of his goals will be to watch how the veterans practice, and also looking forward to covering Calvin Johnson.

"I was happy when I got drafted here because I know that I'm going to become better just by being out on this field going against all these guys," he said.

And though Carter is finished with school for this year, he hasn't earned his degree, though he's not convinced psychology will remain his major. He said he's looked into taking online classes for Stanford as well as enrolling at Michigan because some credits would transfer.

"That opens up doors, having a Stanford degree, because football only lasts for so long," Carter said. "The average career is 3 ½ (years), and as much as I want to play 10, 20 years, I know that eventually it's going to be over and I'm going to have to do something else so getting that degree is important."