ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Two years ago, the Denver Broncos' long-term plan at safety looked clear. Although they had signed Mike Adams as an insurance plan, their two drafted safeties in 2011, Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, were the future. If the team was constructed according to plan, they would have been the safety pairing.
Carter's knee problems changed all that. After undergoing microfracture surgery, Carter has not played since September 2012. The Broncos moved on; Moore emerged as a solid starting safety with good range. Adams started 23 regular-season games for the Broncos the last two years. Duke Ihenacho displayed some strength against the run as a starting strong safety in 2013. And finally, in March, the Broncos signed former Browns Pro Bowler T.J. Ward.
But Denver never forgot about Carter -- even though he fretted that the opposite would be the case.
"It's easy to be forgotten about in this business," he said. "It's a lot of a 'what have you done for me lately' type of thing. When I'm working, when I'm here working, it's more the times at home alone when I'm just sitting there and I just have a lot of time to think, (that's) when it's hardest for me."
But the Broncos' patience may be rewarded this fall. By the end of minicamp and into the final week of organized team activities, there was Carter, getting first-team repetitions.
"It feels wonderful," Carter said.
"I've been out for two years so it seems like an eternity since I've played. I'm ecstatic to be out here."
Carter moved better than he had at any point since posting interceptions in both of the Broncos' playoff games in January 2012, when he picked off Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in consecutive games.
But it will be difficult for Carter to be a starter in this defense. Ward wasn't paid to sit on the bench, and Moore appears to be all the way back from a bout with compartment syndrome that nearly cost him his leg last November.
Still, he offers flexibility. In March, general manager John Elway mentioned that Ward could be an option as a nickel linebacker, given his stellar performance against the run and his aggressive tendencies at strong safety. If Ward is used in that way, that could create an opening in the nickel secondary, and Carter could be the man for the job.
He hopes to prove he was worth the wait.
"It means the world, especially in this business," he said. "They pretty much believed in me and that gave me the confidence to just take my time and get healthy. Now I'm ready to make a difference."