Friday, September 23, 2005
By John Oehser -

Last week's Colts Hero, Ran Carthon, Prepares for Game against Father
INDIANAPOLIS - Ran Carthon played an extensive role Sunday. That was unusual for the Colts’ first-year running back.

He scored a touchdown, and that was unusual, too.

That night, he talked to his father – former longtime NFL fullback Maurice Carthon – on the telephone, received congratulations and then something very unusual happened.

His father didn’t say anything else.

Nothing his son could have done better. No “constructive criticism.”

Just congratulations, and that was it.

“He told me, 'Good job,’ which is rare,” Carthon said as the AFC South-leading Colts (2-0) prepared to play the Cleveland Browns (1-1) in an early-season AFC game at the RCA Dome Sunday at noon EST.

“Usually, there’s some type of criticism that goes along with it, but he told me, ‘Good job.’ And then he said, ‘Make sure I don’t do that this week.’’’

With good reason:

Carthon’s father, who played seven seasons for the New York Giants and one for the Colts, is now in his first season as the Browns’ offensive coordinator.

This Sunday will be the first time father and son have faced each other in a football game and more than that, it will be one of the first times Ran Carthon has spent time around his father in a football capacity.

Emphasis on one of the first times.

Because Ran Carthon spoke this week of the one other time: two weeks last season that Ran spent on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad when his father was an assistant there under Bill Parcells, for whom the elder Carthon played with the New York Giants.

Ran, who signed with the Colts as a rookie free agent from the University of Florida shortly after the 2004 NFL Draft, signed with the Cowboys’ practice squad after the Colts released him just before last season.

Two teams called after his release from the Colts. One was the Cowboys. The other was the Atlanta Falcons. When determining the team to sign after the draft, he had avoided the Cowboys – “my whole life I had been The Son of Maurice Carthon,” he said, “I wanted to establish something on my own” – but after the Colts released him, he said he figured he didn’t have much choice.

“I figured, ‘Hey, who would give you a better chance than your dad?’’’ Carthon said this week.

One problem, Ran Carthon said: not knowing how long he would be in Dallas, Ran opted to stay at home – with his father – and because his father was the offensive coordinator, that made for what Ran called a “rough,” long day.

“My day started with him in the morning, continued on at practice and ended with him,” Carthon said, laughing. “All day long. In meetings, if I didn’t answer a question correctly . . . In two weeks, I was supposed to learn the entire offense.

“I’d come home, sit on the couch and maybe watch some TV and he’d come in and push me in the head and tell me, ‘You need to be studying your playbook.’’’

Two weeks after he signed with Dallas, he received another call:

Colts Vice President of Football Operations Chris Polian.

Polian wanted to know if he were interested in returning to the Colts on their 53-man active roster.

“There were no ifs, and or buts,” Carthon said. “I asked Chris if he needed me there within the hour. It was one of those immediate things.”

Carthon spent the rest of the season with the Colts, spending seven games on the active roster and six on the practice squad. He re-signed with the Colts as a free agent after the season.

This season, during training camp, Carthon was one of the Colts’ most consistent players. He led the team in rushing, and made the roster as a reserve running back. This past Sunday, with running back James Mungro (knee) and Dominic Rhodes (shoulder) out with injuries, it was Carthon playing in the fourth quarter when Colts starting running back Edgerrin James needed rest.

On 3rd-and-goal from the Jaguars 6 in the fourth quarter, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning checked at the line of scrimmage from a passing play to a running play. Carthon was the lone back. He took the handoff, and on his second career NFL carry, he nosed into the end zone for a touchdown that gave Indianapolis a lead it never relinquished in a crucial early-season division game.

“Ran’s a very conscientious young man and he knows how to play the game, but it’s a credit to our coaches,” Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. “We work everybody in practice. We work a lot with our second group just for that situation.

“You know who’s going to be active, and anybody who’s active has a chance to be in there. It’s part of what we do.”

Which Carthon said was exactly his approach last week – and any week, for that matter.

“(Colts running backs coach) Gene (Huey) prepares us all every week,” Carthon said. “Gene’s a straightforward guy. He’ll tell you, ‘You’re not going to get the (practice) reps, but get the mental reps.’ That’s one thing I pride myself on being here: staying focused and knowing what we’re going offensively. You never know when your opportunity’s going to come.

“You’ve got to always be prepared. Each week, I practice like that, as if I’m playing. I’ve been able to get a few reps here and there in practice. Once I got in the game, everything was smooth sailing.”

This week, with he and James the lone healthy Colts running backs with experience in the offense, he said his approach will stay the same.

“If my number’s going to be called somewhere, I’ve got to keep performing,” Carthon said. “I’ve got to spell Edgerrin when he needs it. I’ve got to keep doing my job, and keep playing football. That’s all it is: playing football.”

Carthon, who said his conversations with his father this week will be limited to a Wednesday phone conversation and dinner Saturday, said he’ll approach Sunday’s game as he did this past Sunday. It’s the same way he has approached every NFL game week so far.

“I’m confident in my ability and I just get myself ready to play no matter the situation,” he said. “I’m not going to say I’m the best back in the league and need the ball in my hands 50-or-60 times a game, but I’m confident in my abilities. I wouldn’t have made the 53-man roster just because so hopefully, the coaches have confidence in me because I have confidence in myself that I’ll get it done.”