Cris Carter was as emphatic with his response to a former teammate’s criticism as he was with his first-down signals after a big catch.
This weekend, Carter will be inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, but not before a former teammate of his, Qadry Ismail, called him “selfish” and a “bona fide diva” on Sirius XM Mad Dog Radio earlier this week.
“To be perfectly honest with you, Cris was a bona fide diva,” Ismail told SiriusXM. “To me, the greatest guy that I played with was Shannon Sharpe, because he raised the game up for me as a player. I know there would be times when we’d get in the huddle and he’d look over at me and go, ‘Q, we need to make a play.’ Or whatever it might have been in that moment. And I swear to you it would be like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to make a play because Shannon just called me out.’ And sure enough, boom, it would be there. Shannon was that kind of a guy that you just knew that he was in your corner.
“You couldn’t say the same thing for Cris Carter. You couldn’t say the same thing as far as his attitude towards his teammates. You couldn’t say the same thing as far as his attitude as far as the coaching staff. You knew that he had a selfishness to him that was an extreme selfishness.”
Carter’s response when on ESPN Radio in New York Wednesday was as direct as Carter usually is in his responses. His retort: Ismail is right, but good receivers should be selfish.
“The words are true. I am very selfish. Those aren’t strong words. They didn’t break any story. I’m a wide receiver; I’m selfish. I was trying to teach him to be selfish. I’m glad I’m more selfish than him, though,” Carter said.
Carter played 12 of his 16 NFL seasons with the Vikings after Philadelphia released him and then-head coach Buddy Ryan issued his infamous quote – “All his does is catch touchdowns.”
Actually, Carter did a little more than that.
In 2000, he became only the second player in NFL history to catch 1,000 career passes and record eight straight seasons of 1,000 yards receiving. He had 42 games with 100 yards receiving and ranked second on the NFL’s all-time list for receptions (1,101) and touchdown catches (130) when he retired after the 2002 season.
Carter didn’t shy away from the notion that receivers have to be selfish.
“They have to be. You depend on so many other people and your job is stat-driven. You have to be. The reason we didn’t win Super Bowls isn’t because I was selfish. When (Ismail) was playing on my team, do you know what my stats were? I broke the NFL record, scored 17 touchdowns,” Carter said. “It is what it is. I tried to teach him as much as I could. Let me tell you this: It’s not a personal thing so it’s not a (Qadry) issue. I expect you if you’re in pro football to catch the freakin’ ball. So I’m not going to be happy with you if they throw it to you and you have a tendency to drop it. Or if you have a tendency to make excuses. Or if you’re not that dang-gone tough. So, did we have problems? Those were the problems. Besides that, I was a great teammate.”
Ismail was teammates with Carter from 1993-96, playing four of his 10 NFL seasons with the Vikings. He never had more than 45 catches for five touchdowns for the Vikings, and he finished his career with 353 catches for 5,137 yards and 33 touchdowns.
“I can guarantee you this: Qadry Ismail takes a lot more maintenance than Cris Carter. You can ask anyone with the Minnesota Vikings or Baltimore Ravens for that matter. He requires a lot more maintenance on a daily basis than I do,” Carter told ESPN New York.
“I’m going to not start today, July 31 in the year 2013, taking advice from Qadry Ismail on how to be a wide receiver.”
Ismail didn’t deny Carter’s talent, but he more than once called out Carter for the type of teammate Ismail perceived him to be.
“Could he flat out make plays? Absolutely,” Ismail told SiriusXM. “But there’s a reason why they didn’t go all the way and win Super Bowls. There’s a reason why, that his talent was good, but when you talk about Jerry Rice talent you also talk about that team elevating it to the next level to win championships. When you talk about Shannon’s talent, you are talking about that team elevating and winning championships. When you are talking about talent, there’s one thing to have talent but, to me, if you’re a complete, amazing football player, others around you rise up to whatever their level of talent is.”
Carter was selected to play in eight Pro Bowls, was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s and was the 1999 NFL Man of the Year, but he still had to wait six years after he was eligible to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Some speculated that was because he could rub some people the wrong way with his direct, unvarnished approach with other people.
Give him this: He is also direct in his self-assessment. Asked if he is a diva, he accepted the title with open arms.
“Man, thank you. Absolutely. I need someone to come in here and powder me right now,” he joked.
“I’m a wide receiver. You think I would have made it to the Hall of Fame not being selfish.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.