Still, at times Carter's outspokenness has put him at odds with teammates. Last season, after Minnesota cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock was beaten on a game-winning touchdown pass against the Packers, Carter berated him on the sideline. During a players-only meeting a few weeks later, Hitchcock chastised Carter for criticizing teammates. Then, in February, Carter ripped Vikings Pro Bowl defensive tackle John Randle as being selfish for refusing to restructure his contract at a time when the team was looking for salary-cap relief.
"Cris is a great teacher, but the older he gets, the more he is learning that not everyone comes into this league with his talent," says Minnesota wideout Matthew Hatchette, who also trains with Carter in the off-season. "He's realizing that some of us have to work pretty hard at this."
Teammates also have questioned Carter's relationship with Green, alleging the wideout has quasimanagerial input on personnel decisions. Carter and Green deny that but admit that the coach keeps Carter, in his role as a team leader, abreast of these decisions. "When Denny has to make a decision, he doesn't think, I wonder how Cris will feel about it?" Carter says. "With all the recent moves, Denny called me to say, This is what we're going to do. Our relationship is blown out of proportion. When the players tell me they need something and I go to Denny to get it, then my relationship with Denny is fine. Plus, if I were part of the decision-making process, would Jeff George be gone?"
When Carter goes, he will leave many people wondering what his career would have been like had he always been so focused. His 924 receptions and 114 touchdown catches rank fourth and second, respectively, in NFL history. Yet he doesn't dwell on what might have been. He's only interested in making the most of the time he has left. He's only interested in fighting to the end.