MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - An official from the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened the large black box, took out the enormous ring given to those inducted and handed it to Cris Carter. The former Minnesota Vikings great put it on his finger and took a long look at it.
''I thought I was going to come back to Minnesota for one ring, and I thought that was going to be a Super Bowl ring,'' Carter said Thursday night before the Vikings faced the Washington Redskins. ''It's my greatest disappointment. But to come here today to receive my Hall of Fame ring, I still want to come back one day and have a parade and see them get a championship ring. That's absolutely my wish.''
Carter returned to Minnesota to be honored at halftime with a ceremony presenting him with the ring. He said he's not a sentimental person, but it was clear that he still holds a strong connection to the franchise, and the state, that took him in during a dark period in his life and helped turn him into a star.
After being cast aside by the Philadelphia Eagles due in large part to his struggles with drugs, Carter turned his life and his career around in Minnesota. With one of the best pair of hands that the game has ever seen, Carter helped remake the Vikings into a highly entertaining, and pretty successful, franchise in the 1990s. He teamed with Jake Reed and Randy Moss to give the Vikings one of the top receiver trios in the league and led the team to two NFC championship games.
When he retired in 2002, he was second only to Jerry Rice in career touchdowns and receptions. After missing the Hall of Fame cut five times, Carter was finally inducted in August. He was a fan favorite in 12 seasons here, and he was eagerly awaiting a cheer from Vikings fans one more time.
''People spent their hard earned money to watch me play,'' Carter said. ''I want to tell them thank you for that. I didn't come from a whole bunch so I appreciate that. When a family decides to come to the Metrodome to watch me play, I plan on giving them their money's worth so for me, that's what I'm here for. To tell the fans, thank you.''
Carter is an analyst for ESPN, but he said he has maintained contact with the franchise since he left and has even been consulted on a few personnel moves over the years.
''When they lose, it hurts,'' Carter said. ''There's no other team that loses in the NFL that makes me hurt. But, when the Vikings lose it makes me hurt, and to see the state the team is right now is very painful too.''
The Vikings staggered into the game at 1-7 with big problems all over the field. Carter was reluctant to get into specifics on the team's problems, but did point to the revolving door at quarterback as being a primary reason. The Vikings have started three different quarterbacks this season because Christian Ponder hasn't been able to grab hold of the position like the team hoped he would and last year's playoff run seems like a distant memory.
''It's still based on the quarterback. If the quarterback doesn't grow, it's hard to grow the offense,'' Carter said. ''Adrian (Peterson) hasn't had the record-breaking year so far. It's hard for them to get over. They're not getting the pass protection. They're not getting the defensive turnovers from last year. I think it's totally different from last year.''