NAPA, Calif. (AP) - Andre Carter's training camp routine is a lot different from when the Oakland Raiders' defensive end entered the NFL more than a decade ago.
No more mornings of sleeping in or trotting out to practice without so much as a warm-up stretch. The 34-year-old pass rush specialist is up and on the field working out the kinks long before the day's workouts begin, joining fellow veteran Charles Woodson hours ahead of their teammates.
It's a regimen that has become even more vital to Carter these days.
Almost two years after suffering a ruptured quadriceps tendon in his left leg while with the New England Patriots, Carter is trying to maintain his spot on the Raiders defensive line after joining the team early in the 2012 season.
``It's funny the things you do to prepare for camp the older you get,'' Carter said. ``I'm with Woodson getting warmed up a couple hours before practice. You wake up at 6:40 a.m., take a hot shower, loosen up a little bit, get the hips right. The body, to play for this long, has taken a beating.''
Carter is entering his 13th NFL season and has 78 1/2 sacks, eighth-most among active players. But the seventh overall pick in the 2001 draft is coming off a year in which he had only 19 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in 12 games.
Although he has had to take on an increased workload early in training camp while Lamarr Houston sits out practice because of an disclosed injury, Carter will likely be a third-down pass-rusher in Oakland's defense.
Houston attended practice Saturday but no timetable has been given for his return, leaving Carter to carry the load.
``Any time you have guys like Charles Woodson (and) Andre Carter ... they understand what it takes to be a championship-level football team,'' Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. ``We expect them to go out and make plays for us, but part of their job description is to help some of these young guys not just learn what to do but how to do it and how to play the NFL game.''
How much Carter will be a part of the defensive line rotation once Houston returns remains uncertain. Houston is one of only two starters brought back from last year's team.
Oakland signed Jason Hunter in the offseason and drafted David Bass with one of its seventh-round draft picks. Hunter has been taking all the reps at left defensive end with the Raiders' first-team defense during training camp while Carter has been getting the majority of work on the right side.
``We have been on point as far as communication,'' Carter said. ``You have to get the physical reps, that's the only way you're going to get better. But overall we've made great progression despite the changes. We all kind of feed off each other.''
Carter is relishing this training camp more than most.
He was out of the NFL at this time a year ago after tearing the quadriceps tendon completely off the bone in his left leg. The injury required surgery and scared away most teams from pursuing Carter once he had recovered.
The Raiders brought him in for a pair of workouts before eventually signing him to a contract in September. He got off to a slow start but had 11 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks over a three-game stretch last December.
Oakland re-signed Carter in April to a one-year deal worth $1 million in the hopes he can help a pass rush that generated just 25 sacks in 2012.
``Obviously, he can go into the rotation and play first and second down but I see him a little bit more as a third-down type of player,'' Allen said. ``The great thing about Andre is that he's a pro so he's going to prepare himself for all situations.''
Notes: WR Jacoby Ford returned to practice after missing the past week with a leg injury. ... Left tackle Jared Veldheer did not practice after undergoing an MRI test on a triceps muscle. The MRI was negative and Veldheer will likely be back on the field Sunday.