Not to say it's been a while since Broncos fans last watched Quinton Carter, but the last time he was on the field, Brian Dawkins was his safety partner.
It's been so long since Carter last played, Tim Tebow was the Broncos' starting quarterback.
A lifetime ago in NFL years.
"It feels like a long time in one sense," Carter said Thursday after the Broncos' final minicamp practice. "But it also feels like riding a bike. You get back out there, you get used to it, and sooner or later, it's exactly how it was."
Carter has been one of the feel-good stories of the Broncos' offseason. After missing most of the past two seasons with a knee injury that required a microfracture procedure and strenuous rehabilitation to repair, Carter has been getting strong safety reps with the Broncos' first-string nickel defense. And with the Broncos giving T.J. Ward some rest Thursday, Carter got every rep on the base defense.
"Rod Woodson told me today he had the same procedure and he played 14 years after that," Carter said, referring to the Hall of Fame defensive back who was a guest coaching instructor during the Broncos' minicamp. "I've been away from it for a while, just working. It is great to be out there and getting the opportunity and I'm thankful for it."
Behind the Broncos' practice fields, a new 85,000 square-foot indoor practice facility is getting stronger with iron every day. They should call it The House That Quinton Carter Built.
Selected by the Broncos in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, Carter started 10 games as a rookie, then two more in the playoffs when he intercepted Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady in consecutive games.
But during a training camp practice down the street at a rented indoor sports bubble in 2012, Carter was covering Eric Decker on a deep pass thrown by some new quarterback named Peyton Manning.
So dysfunctional is the sports bubble for an NFL practice, Carter suffered a left knee and hamstring injury while trying to stop from ramming into a soccer goal. Two days later, he underwent arthroscopic surgery.
In fairness to the sports bubble and its unforgiving artificial surface, Carter had been playing with a degenerative cartilage condition in his knee since his college playing days at Oklahoma.
"It did aggravate it," Carter said of his soccer goal twist. "It's unfortunate, but I am one of those who believes everything happens for a reason."
He played three games after his scope in 2012, but without cartilage, the pain became bone-on-bone unbearable. He underwent microfracture surgery in October, 2012, a more intensive procedure that requires a longer healing period, but also carries a greater chance of a permanent correction.
The Broncos must really think highly of Carter because they carried him on their injured reserve list for a second season in 2013.
"Quinton, having him back in the rotation, letting him get snaps and watching the way he is—instinctive and makes plays, plays with confidence — it'll be a great addition to have him back at full strength," said Jack Del Rio, the Broncos' defensive coordinator.
"I made the decision to get it done because it was keeping me from playing the way I wanted to," Carter said. "When I came to training camp last year it wasn't quite ready and I was thankful the Broncos kept me and put me on IR to keep working and get it better."