Since NFL Hall-of-Famer and ESPN broadcaster Cris Carter’s comments at the 2014 NFC rookie symposium encouraging rookies to “get a fall guy” emerged this week, everyone involved has tried to paint them as a once-off mistake in the heat of the moment. That may not be accurate, though, as Jets’ second-year tight end Jace Amaro told The New York Daily News Carter repeated his remarks later at a session for 2014 AFC rookies. That raises serious questions about if Carter and the NFL were honest in their defensive stances this week. From the Daily News:

Though he was told not to repeat the statements in his talk with AFC rookies that year, second-year Jets tight end Jace Amaro says Carter made similar statements.

“I think he had the best interest for us, but it just wasn’t said in the most appropriate way,” Amaro said. “I don’t think he meant it in any scapegoat way. I think he just meant, in the bigger picture, to have a backup plan. Have a guy that’s going to be there watching your back.

“It’s hard to defend him saying that. But I think he had the best intentions for us.”

If Amaro’s account is accurate, the explanations Carter and the NFL issued this week deserve further scrutiny. The NFL issued a statement saying that they addressed Carter’s comments immediately and he didn’t repeat them down the road:

This was an unfortunate and inappropriate comment made by Cris Carter during the 2014 NFC rookie symposium. The comment was not representative of the message of the symposium or any other league program. The league’s player engagement staff immediately expressed concern about the comment to Cris. The comment was not repeated in the 2014 AFC session or this year’s symposium.

And Carter himself said on Twitter “I’m sorry and I truly regret what I said that day,” and said on Monday’s NFL Countdown that “I can’t make an excuse to what my mind-set was. My heart was in the right place” and “I do regret that day.” (He also said “I would never tell young people to break the law to avoid prosecution.” Uh, isn’t that what all of this is about?) SI’s Robert Klemko also acted as if the comments he heard were a minor part of Carter’s dialogue in his attempt to explain why he didn’t report the comments. (Update: Klemko noted on Twitter that he didn’t attend the AFC rookie sessions, so anything Carter did or said there wouldn’t have been in his piece.)

So, everyone around has tried to call what’s shown in the video a simple, brief lapse in judgement, which still carries its own questions. If it was a longer-running theme of Carter’s remarks, though, as Amaro implies, that’s even more problematic. That suggests that Carter and the NFL were both fine with these comments (apart from the NFL rep who told Klemko not to report them) until they got called on the carpet this week with Chris Borland relaying those comments (absent Carter’s identity) to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru for an ESPN The Magazine piece, and that would explain why the league left the video of Carter and Warren Sapp talking to rookies up until this firestorm started.

Moreover, Amaro’s comments suggest that both Carter and the NFL are being disingenuous in their statements. They could be technically correct; perhaps Carter didn’t use the same words, and perhaps he didn’t say “fall guy” to the AFC rookies after his discussion with the league’s player engagement staff. If the theme of his remarks was the same, though, that shows recalcitrance and a more-entrenched stance on this from both him and the league, and it suggests that this was not just a momentary slip of the tongue, but a longer-held belief that players should have others around to blame for their mistakes. That’s incredibly problematic, and that would carry real questions about how Carter can retain credibility as a NFL analyst. His apology was troubling enough in the first place for what it didn’t say, but it looks even worse if this wasn’t the one-off mistake he claims it was.

At the very least, Carter needs to address Amaro’s comments. He needs to talk about what he said at the AFC symposium, and if he continued to deliver the same message despite an apparent warning from the NFL. Other accounts from rookies in the crowd, or perhaps even video, would be extremely useful too. If Amaro’s comments are accurate, both Carter and the NFL have a lot to answer for, and both may look worse than they already do.

(An interesting footnote: Klemko’s piece says Carter and Sapp agreed to speak “for a small fee.” Carter’s on-air apology included “I donate a lot of time to young people,” giving the impression he wasn’t compensated. That’s not necessarily a huge deal, but it does seem like a discrepancy, and it’s worth asking if an ESPN broadcaster really should be taking money from a league he’s supposed to be covering. Then again, that’s probably low on the list of concerns about ESPN’s relationship with the NFL.)

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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