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Inside The NFL

Welcome Back
Wideout Cris Carter is coming out of retirement--and not a
moment too soon for the injury-depleted Dolphins

The Dolphins were 28 minutes and three turnovers into their
meltdown at Pro Player Stadium on Sunday when, 35 miles to the
north, in Boca Raton, an interested observer snarled at the
big-screen TV in his family room. "Come on, Ray!" Cris Carter
said, urging on Miami quarterback Ray Lucas. "Take a sack! We've
got a beast of a defense! Let them win it!"

Maybe Carter, second in the NFL in career receptions, should have
come out of retirement a day earlier. On Monday, in the wake of
their 23-10 loss to Buffalo, the Dolphins signed the 36-year-old
Carter to a contract that could pay him around $1 million for the
last 10 weeks of 2002. After that, Carter is expected to return
to his analyst's job on HBO's Inside the NFL, though he sounds
like a man who hopes his close-to-home gig is more than a
half-season deal. "Stay tuned," he said on Sunday.

Retirement, as it turned out, was too sedate for Carter. The HBO
assignment was fun and a way to keep his hand in football, but
it didn't satisfy his route-running jones. He got the
I-should-be-out-there feeling when he took his son Duron to the
Jets-Dolphins game on Sept. 22. And he didn't need much
convincing when Miami called on Oct. 16 to feel him out about
playing again. The Dolphins may have been sitting atop the AFC
East at 5-1 after a last-second win over the Broncos on Oct. 13,
but they were hurting at wideout with starters Chris Chambers
(concussion) and Oronde Gadsden (torn ligament in his left
wrist) out for a week and the season, respectively, and with no
depth to speak of.

Last Thursday in New York City, before taping the HBO show,
Carter was wrestling with whether he should accept the Miami
offer. His Inside the NFL colleagues were unanimous. "Bro," Dan
Marino told him that morning, "do you have any idea how much I'd
love to come back? You've got to do it." When Carter's family
got on board on Friday, the decision was easy. After passing a
team physical on Monday, Carter began preparing for his new job
in earnest. He should play a prominent role in Miami's next
game, on Nov. 4 in Green Bay.

"After you retire, you're always trying to justify not wanting
to play," Carter said on Sunday during a timeout that
momentarily halted the Dolphins' six-turnover implosion. "You
say you've got to get on with your life. You almost believe it.
All of us who go into the next life knowing we've got something
left still want to play, in the back of our mind."

The deal with Miami is salve on the wound left by his departure
from the NFL. After persuading the Vikings to grant him his
release last winter, Carter was on the verge of signing with the
Rams in March. But they backed out when Carter delayed a trip to
St. Louis because he was also negotiating with the Browns. At
the same time, he was talking to the Dolphins, but he wanted
more than the roughly $1.5 million the team was offering.

Second only to Jerry Rice on the alltime receptions list, with
1,093, Carter hopes to contribute immediately by serving as a
safety net for the inexperienced Lucas. The 30-year-old
quarterback, who on Sunday made his first start since 1999, will
be in the lineup for at least a month while starter Jay Fiedler
recovers from a broken right thumb. "I watch tape from last
year," Carter said on Sunday, "and there's nothing I won't be
able to do now that I did then."

The Dolphins are counting on that.

Tony Boselli's Nightmare
Texans Left Holding the Bag

Managing the salary cap is never easy. Just ask Jaguars coach
Tom Coughlin, who last February had to sever ties with the first
draft pick in franchise history, popular left tackle Tony
Boselli, to get the team under the cap. In so doing he alienated
not only the fans who had become attached to Boselli, but also
his wife, Judy, who'd become very close to Tony and his wife,
Angi. "When I finally told Judy, she started throwing things at
me," Coughlin recalls. "She got mad. She said, 'You are the
biggest jerk in the world!'"

In a football sense, however, Coughlin made a prescient move. A
deal was struck with the Texans: Jacksonville would expose three
stalwarts (defensive tackles Seth Payne and Gary Walker as well
as Boselli) in the expansion draft if Houston would agree to
take all of them--and their combined $16.9 million cap
value--off the Jaguars' hands. The Texans came through, clearly
valuing the solid defensive players for their long-term impact
even though Boselli, who since 1999 had torn the labrum in each
shoulder and undergone reconstructive surgery on his right knee,
was a risk. Unfortunately for Houston, that risk became reality:
Boselli had to have additional surgery on his left shoulder in
June, never took the field for the Texans and last week was
placed on injured reserve, lost for the year.

"If you'd have asked me last January, 'Will Tony Boselli need
additional shoulder surgery?' I'd have bet the house he wouldn't
have," says Houston general manager Charley Casserly.

Boselli, who had a second operation on the left shoulder in late
April, says that Jacksonville doctors told him in the off-season
that he would be "as good as new" by training camp. Instead, an
impingement that wouldn't go away with rehab necessitated a third
operation on the shoulder, and there wasn't time to get it strong
enough to withstand NFL play. Coughlin insisted last week that
the Jaguars were open with Boselli and the Texans about the
shoulder (doctors representing Houston and the NFL also checked
out the tackle), but Boselli says, "I'm disappointed I was told
one thing and something else happened."

The three-player dump by Jacksonville could also wind up
affecting the balance of power in the new AFC South. The
Jaguars, who were $24 million over the cap during the
off-season, are scheduled to be $12 million under it after this
year; it remains to be seen whether Houston will get its money's
worth out of the three players. "We thought about those
implications," Casserly says. "We had to do what we could to
make our team better. Jacksonville had a big problem, but Tom
Coughlin would have found some way to keep winning."

Perhaps, but he got a huge assist from the Texans.

Lousy Footing In Oakland

Sebastian Janikowski is killing the Raiders. The man with the
lethal left leg missed field goals of 27 and 48 yards in
regulation of a 27-21 OT loss to San Diego and has made only 7 of
11 tries this year. What's worse, with an early November court
date looming for a DUI charge, Janikowski could face disciplinary
action from the league.... New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's
strategy has been a big factor in Baltimore's recent 3-1 run.
He's more blitz-happy than predecessor Marvin Lewis was, which
pleases all the young pups on the Ravens' defense.... Boss
Bailey, a 6'3", 231-pound senior linebacker at Georgia, might be
a top 10 pick, just as his brother Champ, an All-America corner
for the Dawgs, was in '99 when Washington took him seventh.
"Likes the game more than Champ, and he's a better competitor,"
reads one team's scouting report on Boss.

Read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback every week at

COLOR PHOTO: RHONA WISE/AFPLucas, intercepted four times in a 23-10 loss, will get some help from Carter (below).


COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Boselli will have to wait until 2003 to play his first down for the Texans