IRVING, Texas – Summer has been an emotional season for Brandon Carr – a fact that correlates to what's been an up-and-down couple of years for the veteran corner.
It was just two summers ago, just before a disastrous season for the Dallas defense, that Carr welcome his son into the world – during the midst of Cowboys training camp. The outset of last year's training camp brought an entirely different emotion. Carr lost his mother, Kathy, to breast cancer last July and missed the first nine days of practice.
"It's been a whirlwind," Carr said. "I have my moments where I'm feeling good, feeling at my best, then I have my moments where I have a lot of thoughts on my mind that kind of affect me."
These are thoughts that often get lost in conversations about Carr's on-field struggles, and especially the $50 million contract that is mentioned every time his name comes up. There's no shortage of ammunition for critics of that hefty salary, whether it's his struggles from 2013, or perhaps most famously, the infamous touchdown catch he allowed to Odell Beckham last November.
Despite the challenges he's faced, though, Carr has never been much for excuses.
"I feel like I'm a professional and this is a business," he said. "Sometimes you've got to try to swallow everything that comes your way and still go out there and try to make a play and just try to make a difference."
That thought helps explain why Carr is on the cusp of his fourth training camp with the Cowboys, and not on a different roster. As is often mentioned, Carr is set to count $12.7 million against the Cowboys' salary cap this year, and there's been no shortage of speculation that the club might seek to reduce his salary – if not release him altogether.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has not been one to speculate, giving his top corner consistent votes of confidence, with the most recent one coming just last week.
"I think that Carr is capable. I'm not as negative on Carr's season last year as some can be," he said. "I think he got pretty consistent near the end of the season."
The stats bear that out. During the Cowboys' four-game win streak to wrap up last season, he excelled against the likes of Chicago, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Washington. He helped limit Calvin Johnson to a manageable 85 yards on four catches in the wildcard round of the playoffs, and he held Green Bay's Jordy Nelson to a mere 22 yards on two catches in the final game of the year.
"That last month I had an opportunity to go out there and really get back to form and shutting guys down," Carr said. "I definitely want to build on it, but this is a new year, a new set of circumstances."
Jones is hoping for some circumstances that will be more beneficial for his entire secondary, including Carr. For starters, the Cowboys have beefed up their pass rush by adding talents like Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory. They also drafted Byron Jones to bolster the secondary, and they extended Orlando Scandrick – not to mention the hope for added contributions from the likes of Morris Claiborne.
"He's got a real good chance with a potential Claiborne in there, and Carr and Jones and Scandrick out there that we've got a good chance to be excellent in our secondary. I expect that, really," Jones said.
He might expect it, but others will have to see to believe. At the same press conference where Jones backed Carr, he also faced more questions about that gaudy contract – and even acknowledged he may find a way to reduce the veteran's cap hit.
"It's a business and it's all about producing, and each and every day I fight to get up and try to embrace the grind and get better each day I step onto that field," Carr said. "All the noise outside – I've been here for four years now. I've learned how to block it out and how to maneuver through it."
Contract talks don't sound like such a challenge after considering the trials of Carr's past year or so. Throughout that process he said he's leaned on the values his parents instilled in him, including the resiliency to handle adversity.
With another summer – and the long season that follows it – approaching, Carr sounded confident that he could.
"Who knows what may happen this offseason and up until game time, but I'm ready for it," he said. I'm going to embrace it all and take it in stride."